Authorities, mom offer theories on Hicks' death

The official word on Regina (Rowe) Hicks' October 2001 death was drowning. Sheriff's detectives and Lacella Holbrook, the victim's mother, have their theories of what led to the 23-year-old Willard woman being found in her car in a pond near Section Line Road 30.
Cary Ashby
Jul 25, 2010


The official word on Regina (Rowe) Hicks' October 2001 death was drowning.

Sheriff's detectives and Lacella Holbrook, the victim's mother, have their theories of what led to the 23-year-old Willard woman being found in her car in a pond near Section Line Road 30.

What seems most telling is there were several bruises near Hicks' scalp, which weren't consistent with a vehicle crash.

Capt. Jamey Bracken was a detective sergeant when authorities recovered the woman's body in her white Chevrolet Camaro.

"She was placed there," Bracken said. "We believe she was dragged. ... I know it was a pretty tight timeline.

"And she was alive when she went into the water. We know that," he added.

Holbrook has a similar theory.

"She was knocked up side the head, dragged through the dirt (and) placed in the car," Hicks' mother said. "Her total side of her head was beat."

The state Highway Patrol was brought in to reconstruct the scene.

"There was no evidence of any crash," said Detective Sgt. Dane Howard, who now oversees the investigation. "There was a low impact into the water."

The investigators don't know, or wouldn't say, how the Camaro ended up in the pond. Howard called it "an important part of the puzzle," but wouldn't be more specific.

Holbrook said she believes someone, working with an accomplice, drove the car into the pond after her daughter was assaulted.

The overall depth of the pond is 25 feet. Hicks' car was found in "the upper third," Howard said.

Authorities removed Hicks' body from her car at the Willard Police Department sally port to maintain the "integrity of the evidence," Bracken said. "It was a more controlled environment than outside," he added.

Holbrook said she strongly believes Willard officers spoiled possible evidence such as footprints by walking near the pond before sheriff's deputies arrived. She thinks police should have roped off the scene and waited.

"It was out of their jurisdiction. They shouldn't have been out there," Holbrook said.

Deputies took a soil sample and sent it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Bracken said deputies never got a confirmation that someone dragged Hicks into the car before it went into a pond.

It's impossible, he added, "that much sediment had settled on her clothes (just) being a passenger in a murky pond."

Several months afterward, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation was assigned to assist in re-evaluating the evidence and facts. Howard declined to share the results.

He said Hicks had been in the pond "the better part of four days" before being discovered. Bracken said the medical examiner never gave a definite answer as to how long she was there.

"She was seen late Thursday evening," he added, referring to Oct. 18, 2001.

Both Bracken and Howard declined to name a primary suspect or the person's motive in killing Hicks. Bracken said they ran a complete criminal history on all the known suspects, but he couldn't recall a history of violent assaults.

"The driver would be the person who killed her," Howard said. He declined to share the suspect's motive because "it would tell you what direction the investigation is heading."

Looking for closure

Howard believes Hicks' relatives would have wanted the crime solved before her stepfather, Lancan "Lance" Holbrook, died Feb. 6. He had battled small cell cancer for about 10 months.

In December, the Holbrooks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible individual(s). The couple released a statement at the time, saying that finding Hicks' killer and solving her suspected murder would help bring closure to the family.

"Regina was a loving mother of a 4-year-old son, Montana (now 10). We miss her more each day and her memory will live on with us," the Holbrooks wrote.

Lacella Holbrook said she thinks about her daughter all the time and goes to her grave site "every day now." She admitted to earlier avoiding going to the Ohio 99 cemetery by herself because she would get too emotional.

"She has paid a real price in the last several years," Howard said about Holbrook without elaborating.

Holbrook credits Lance, Hicks' stepfather, with being the force behind getting billboards posted on U.S. 224 in Willard. They remind residents to contact detectives if they have information about the unsolved case.

The first billboard went up in February. The advertisement reappeared in late September in the same place; the reward has increased to $50,000.

Holbrook has worked closely with Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler and the sheriff's office. Holbrook said she gets calls "all the time" and does her best doing her own follow-ups.

"I figure they have more cases than I've got. I've only got one," she said.

New London Police Chief Mark Holden, a Willard officer in 2001, wants to see the case solved. He recalled putting in "quite a few days" of work backtracking Hicks' whereabouts after she was reported missing.

"I hope the responsible party is caught sometime soon," Holden said.

Howard considers the Hicks investigation an active case.

"We feel strongly there are people in Willard who have information and if they come forward, we could close this case," the sheriff's detective said.

Anyone with tips is encouraged to call the Huron County Sheriff's Office at (419)663-2828.


AnEmployee (Ano...

My heart goes out to Regina's loved ones...Not only is this terribly sad but it will also become a political football...
1. Russ Leffler has been given evidence and will not take the information to the grand jury/courts as it is not a "slam dunk" win....Leffler does not take any case that isn't an easy win...therefore, the murderer continues to have free reign in Huron County. When Leffler is up for re-election I hope Huron County residents keep this in mind (as well as the Efaw/Conner case among others)
2. The past six years Jamey Bracken has had little involvement investigating this case...interesting how he is being quoted...look for him to take credit and use this case and some other big cases closer to election time next fall

Humanoid (Anonymous)

This will be the craziest of all Norwalk Reflector Online story explosions. It will make the Brandt comments look like nursery rhymes. Business is about to pick up, King.

to humanoid (An...

Took the words right out of my mouth! I am a "hicks by marriage" so I'm sure I'll be putting my 2 cents worth in.

Great job (Anon...

To Cary Ashby -

What a great job of collecting all the information for the several articles you wrote regarding this situation. Your attention to detail was supurb and you covered all the bases. Hopefully your reporting will make someone come forward and tell what happened, because this poor girl was murdered.

Again, great job on the articles, Cary!

kudos to ashby ...

Damn, that was hard to write but I guess he did a good job on "this Hicks story." Too bad he's an arse to a few others who bare the same last name!

To an employee ...

Lets keep politic's where they belong, please. This is not the place to air you political grips. There will be a time and place for that and this is not it.

AnEmployee (Ano...

RE: To an employee: This article refers to a murderer who is not being brought to justice, everyone knows who it is but the county prosecutor will not take the case to the grand jury, that in itself is does take away from the terrible loss of life and those left behind to disrespect was intended but the reason no justice after six years is largely due to politics!

Barney (Anonymous)

Sure, and it's a lot easier to go out and get your picture taken pulling up some pot plants.

pope otomus (An...

I feel terribly sad for this girls family,but i think that they are looking at the wrong reason for her death! word on the streets says that it was because of her wanting to turn in her "friend" because of what willard is sadly known for. the bigger boys didn't like that,and felt threatened.they felt like they needed to get rid of any threat, no matter what it took. this is just what the word is on the streets though

Really? (Anonymous)

OK, let me see if I got this right...
1. Someone hit her on the side of the head
2. Dragged her to her car.
3. Placed her in the passenger side of the car
4. Got in the drivers side.
5. Drove to section line 30
6. Drove off the roadway to get to the pond. (Perhaps in the dark)
7. Lined up with the pond. (Once again perhaps in the dark)
8. Calculated the speed needed to submerge the car deep enough in the pond. (You wouldn't want to half A$$ it)
9. KNOWINGLY and WILLFULLY drive a car at a undetermined speed WITH NO SAFTEY GEAR Helmet , Neck brace, Chest Protector, or Seat belt, ( I wouldn't want the seat belt on!! ) Into a body of water 25 foot deep (Fast enough to get it right the first time)
10. Survive AND escape!!!
Now, I'm not a big Leffer fan but I can see where he would have a problem selling this to a jury.

me (Anonymous)

Leffler won't try this case until he has enough evidence to convict. You don't want to bring this before a jury and have the person acquitted. If that happens, there is no way to try him again. I wish the family the best and hope justice is served very soon!

Unreal (Anonymous)

Word on the street,and this is only on the street,is that Leffler was seen buying a comb this week. It is unclear whether he will actually use it.

to pope otomus ...

That is the story that has been heard all along. But the family wants to punish the one they feel did it. If they would broaden their minds beyond 1 person they might find what they are looking for, the 3 she rolled on too protect her son. She was not into drugs at all but her boyfriend was and still is. Lets see, she was a wonderful mother who was threated by the cops she would lose her son unless she cooperated with them. She had to choose her son or her boyfriend, and of course she chose her son. And this pressure from willard's finest cost her her life. I was her friend and yes, I knew what she was going thru. The cops don't want to solve it because then we would all be able to see what she was being put thru by them and the family wants to keep pointing at one person, so no, it will never be solved until all information comes out.

many of us know what was going on with the 3 men she was busted with. She was not a drug addict of any kind though, lets get that straight. She liked to have a few drinks and dance and just have fun. She was forced to roll on these 3 in order to keep her son. Our sheriff and police dept. put her in a no win situation. She was a wonderful mother. So what was she to do, of course do whatever she had to so she would not loose montana. And in turn she lost her life. Her family will not look past one person in all this to blame and the police are satisfied that they are blaming him, so that eases their guilt, right. So this will never go anywhere because of closed minded people. Her family knew what was going on, or at least I think they did at the time. Her mom and her were not that close at that point in her life unlike has been reported! I knew her and she was a beautiful young women and mother. I knew what she was going thru and she was scared to death of what the outcome was going to be. Not the outcome of her divorce but the drug bust. Her and her ex had several physical altercations and they were both just as guilty. Maybe the family should look into the boyfriends past, and also his mental records. You might be surprized what you may find!! And the same goes to Danny Violette's unsolved murder. Maybe they should look at the same group of people involved, there is at least 1 person who was involved in both victims lives. Come on, not too hard to figure out. But this is my opinion, and that is all it is??? I know Paul and I knew Regina, and I do not believe there was reason at anytime for murder, espically for money.

So sad... (Anon...

Hopefully this girls murderer will be brought to justice whomever it may be so that she can rest in peace and her family can have closure. To unreal I agree he also needs to keep his zipper zipped and not with his shirt sticking out of it like I saw him walking down the street. Also some new suits would not hurt. He can donate the ones he wears from the 60's and 70's to goodwill. He after all is representing a public office time to dress like it. You know what they say about first impressions.

Reporter Cary A...

To "Great job" — thank you so much for your kind words. It's always a pleasure to get such fine feedback. It's also exciting to see so may residents who are interested in talking/writing about the content of any of my stories and their ramifications (negative or positive). Letting the community, law enforcement and the culprit(s) know that Regina's death is not forgotten is the reason I wrote the set of stories.

To the Hicks Fa...

Ha sit ever crossed your minds that if you would have pulled together at this tragic time instead of pointing fingers, maybe, just maybe this would have been solved a long time ago. All of you loved Regina, as I did. Paul and her were getting divorced but that doesn't mean he hated her or even wanted her dead. There is a beautiful child left with no mother, no family get togethers to enjoy and share good times and stories of her and pictures. He has been the one who has suffered the most because of you two families. What would Regina say to all of you? Is this what you think she would have wanted her son to be left to?? No way, she is probally as unsettled by this as you are by her unsolved murder. How is Montana ever going to have a stablee normal adult life with all he has had to deal with because of all this fighting? To the Rowe's, he will always side with his dad because thats his dad, same as he would do if it was the other way around. He has heard some pretty horrible things from your family and what do you think that does to him. It sure hasn't turned him away from his father has it. Wouldn't it had been great if he would have had love and support from both families from where he decended from. He should have never been put in the middle of the two families. All he should have seen was love and respect from each family even if it was a show. To try and make this little boy believe the man he loves with all his heart and looks up to could be responsible for his mothers death is evil on your part. He should have never heard these words. Shame on all of you for making this little boy's past 6 years more tragic than it had to be. Maybe its time to pull together and solve this horrible crime against Regina and send the sob's who took her life to the electric chair! I'm sure she would agree.

Preschool Teach...

I had Montana in my preschool class many years ago. He was such a sweet and loving little boy. He doesn't deserve this mess he has been put through all of these years. This little boy needs his family to stop fighting and finaly let him relax and be the child he deserves to be. His chance for a normal child hood is being taken away from him more and more everyday. Being a child is a very important time in ones life stop taking it away from him.

It saddens me everytime I drive through willard and see Regina's face on a billboard. It breaks my heart to think how that must affect Montana every time he passes by the same sign.

To the families I am begging you to stop and think about what this fighting and arguing is doing to Montana. Love him and cherish him as much as you can before its to late. Before long he will be all grown up and you will look back at all the times in his life you missed out on because of this entire situation.
He was young when his mom died. Share happy memories of her with him. Keep her alive in his heart as well as your own. He deserves to know what kind of person his mom was.
Montana my heart goes out to you with every passing day. I hope that someday you will have peace in your life and the chance to be a child and live the normal life you so deserve.

just to let ya ...

Isn't it strange that my son heard from a person that was with Paul Hicks, in a bar, say that "Regina probably was in a pond" son heard about the "pond"....on Sunday, before she was found.....hmmmm....if only those persons that heard him say that would come forward and tell the detectives.....people just won't say anything because they don't want to get involved.....he is guilty and he knows it.........why did he do it.....??? we may never know why....but Paul needs to just remember one thing.......Justice has a long memory.......

to just to let ...

what you have is hear say, would never stand up in court so unless there's someone who wants to come in and have a lie detectors test done I wouldn't be saying this. If this was true the person who Paul supposedly told it to should have ran to the police as soon as he heard it and made a report. Wonder why this person didn't?? Im am related to Paul and if he would have said that to me I would have reported it, so why wouldn't this person? Makes you say hmmm....??? People love to talk, but thats all it is.

Think about it ...

Is it possible that the girl had a fight with the B/F Husband or anyone for that matter, was assaulted and chose to take her own life by driving in the pond? I know this sounds harsh but it more believable than some of the story's floating out there. Heck, I never thought I would be reading about a young man setting himself on fire behind Walmart. Perhaps' the investigators need to take a steep back a look at the fact's as to what could and could not have happened. Not what someone would have you believe what happened.

just to let ya ... can it be hearsay when my son knew about the pond before she was found....he has told the police what was told to him, but the police say they have questioned these people and they refuse to talk......they don't want to get involved and perhaps are afraid.....maybe you could ask Paul who he told about the "pond"......he will someday be charged.......I said justice has a long memory....the police know he did it, but they just don't have the hard evidence to convict.....but someday.......I hope for the Rowe family it will be sooner, rather than later, so they can find some closer to this awful tragedy........He can thank God he wasn't MY son-in-law, they would have found him in the same pond........Paul, do you remember saying that night in the bar "a pond".......???????????????

to the young la...

Contact one of those tv shows like Haunting Evidence and have them investigate her death. What have you got to lose? They really seem to be right on for the most part. Send them an e-mail along with this story which was so well written and received. I feel so bad for you and your family having no closure. Always keep your faith.

to just to let ...

Then why haven't you ran for prosecuter and charged him yourself since you seem to know it all. "These people won't come forward" If your son heard it with his own two ears who else needs to come forward?? If he heard it from "these people" then I feel if there were any truth to it the would be supenoed into court and made to testify. You evidently don't know the laws to well and have no ideal what you are talking about. And I did not say Paul was innocent, who knows, he hasn't been proven guilty or innocent, no one has. How does your statement prove anything at all except a bunch of drunks standing in a bar running their mouths. I'm sure if Paul drove her into that pond he would not be standing in a bar announcing it, get real lady and tell your son he shouldn't get drunk and listen to what other people are saying in a bar. I think if they knew he did it then they would have had him behind bars already. And like everyone else I pray this is solved soon so they can have some peace of mind. And whomever did this I hope they get caught soon and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Be that Paul, the boyfriend, or whomever, they need to pay for this tragic loss of life.

just to let ya ...

Follow this slowly now....I don't want you to be confused more than you already are.....1. Paul was at the bar....2. He told this certain person that "she probably was in a pond........3. MY SON was NOT at the bar.....4.On Sunday my son was told by this person what Paul had said......5. This was SUNDAY, two (2) days before she WAS found in a is that a little clearer to you ??....The police have talked to my son and he has told them what he was told...the police have questioned the ones that heard this......but THEY won't tell the police can't beat them to try to get them to it says in the above article "We feel strongly there are people in Willard who have information and if they come forward, we could close this case" son would testify that he heard this.......but getting the person who told him to tell the police is another story......but hopefully, someday, ALL the pieces of the puzzle will come together....please, please come forward with information if any of you have any.....let's get a dangerous person or persons off the it for the sake of Montana, Lacella, and the rest of the family.....and again, JUSTICE HAS A LONG MEMORY................

OJ (Anonymous)

Everyone that's guilty gets caught.

ummm, no they d...

well, then, where's our 'murderer'?

to just to let ...

I am not confused at all. I'm not saying this comment was not made or if it was?? I'm sayinging it is hearsay as far as the law is concerned. WORD!! Otherwise Mr Hicks would have been convicted already. Speaking of OJ, look at all the evidence they had against him, he's still free, or was anyways. No one will ever be convicted because this person heard from this person and told this person that this person heard it straight from someones mouth, sorry, but our justice system just doesn't work like that. Like I said before, I do not know who did it, we all have theories, but that does not get someone convicted. If Paul did it then hopefully he will be found guilty as he should be. I cared for Regina very much and her loss of life is tragic and I hope the persons responsible are brought to justice for all concerned. And if it was Paul then I hope he's found out soon as he should not be raising their son, that is tragic in itself. But mark my words grandmother Rowe will never get custody of him if there is any justice in this world. She played sick games with this childs mind, when she did get to see him after regina's death. How anyone espically a grandmother could do that to an already distraught little boy. Shame on her. And unlike what your son has to say about the case, that he heard from someone that someone said, what this evil women did to Montana came straight from Montana's mouth to his councelers. No matter what she thought of Paul or if she blamed him, she should have never said the things she did to that child, how creul. I'm sure Regina would not have approved. She loved Montana with all her heart and wanted to be a good parent unlike how she was treated, and those are her words, by her mother. Unlike how her mom potrays their relationship we who knew Regina well knew better. It was not the perfect mother-daughter relationship.

It doesn't matt...

they didn't have a perfect mother/daughter relationship. Who does? I am sure they loved each other and didnt want either of them to die early or tragically. People make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and it all boils down to a mother lost their child in a horrible manner and no parent should have to bury their child. I have known people who have had to bury a child and they all said "this shouldnt have happened I should not have outlived my child" or "this is my worst nightmare". I cant even imagine what that mother has went through. Whomever had anything to do with Regina's death may be getting away with it now but sooner or later everyone has a judgement day and they will answer for the evil they have done. There is a saying dont judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. So unless you have lost a child in the manner that Marcella lost Regina you have no idea how you deal with it. Maybe everyone should pray for those lives that Regina touched that they may all have peace.

swiss family......

i do have to believe that this was somehow drug related. i don't think that this girl was selling drugs, but i think that someone who was very close to her, or was close to her at one time, was a major player in the drug traffic, and she was ready to turn them into the authorities. the "big boys" took this as a threat, and she had to be taken out. it is very sad!

to swiss (Anonymous)

you r for once making sense, but you did not know her so I guess you have been reading others comments on here and just had to put in your two cents worth. Looks like you took your words right from my comment about the drugs, oh well, whatever .