Rape suspect obtains new attorney, trial date

80-year-old Willard man accused of sexual misconduct with mentally-impaired teen.
Cary Ashby
Aug 22, 2014


A Willard rape suspect has a different defense attorney -- and a new trial date.

Howard R. Zerkle, 80, of 151 Crestwood Drive, told Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim his family is helping pay for his new attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby, who appeared for Tuesday's hearing.

Zerkle waived his right to a speedy trial and the court rescheduled his trial date for Oct. 28. Conway said since there have been a couple delays, he wants to make sure the case goes to trial or attorneys present a plea deal by the trial date.

Huron County Public Defender David Longo also was in court Tuesday. He said when Zerkle was in jail he submitted an affidavit of indigency and at the time, the defendant didn't disclose any significant assets or income.

"He has made (a) significant bond. ... If he has the means to obtain counsel, he doesn't need me," Longo said.

Zerkle posted a $150,000 bond May 28.

The public defender released a large stack of evidence to Oglesby during the hearing. The evidence included a witness list, copies of text messages and discs.

"We will be filing for a bill of particulars," Oglesby said.

Zerkle is charged with one count each of kidnapping, rape and sexual battery.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler has said he expects there to be extensive testimony about Zerkle's state of mind at the time of the suspected Jan. 31 incident, so the trial could last three to four days. Assistant Prosecutor Daivia Kasper represented the state during Tuesday's hearing.

The Willard Police Department arrested Zerkle on a secret indictment without incident at his home April 6. A grand jury issues secret indictments when authorities suspect the defendant may flee the area.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisted police with the investigation. Detective Jeremy Draper has said the case involves a first-time meeting between Zerkle and his accuser, so authorities "couldn't establish how they know each other."

The victim, an 18-year-old mentally impaired woman, went to MedCentral Health System in Mansfield the night of Jan. 31. She was treated and released.

In early February, the victim's father began picketing outside the Willard police station with a sign and expressed his belief that authorities weren't taking his daughter's suspected attacker off the streets.

Zerkle reportedly got the teenager's name from a Plymouth High School student and followed the victim's school bus to her house. When she got off, Zerkle allegedly lured her to him and said he would take her to his house, out to eat and to play games, the father earlier told the Reflector. The victim's brother tried to stop the man's car after she got in, but it was too late.

The father said his daughter, who is friendly and likes and trusts everybody, probably thought Zerkle was a friend.

Police were called after the victim got scared at the stranger's home and texted her mother.

"They found my daughter's blood in his bed," the father said.

Investigators also recovered two used condoms and blood on a towel from Zerkle's apartment.


Another Opinion

Now he is claiming or pleading his state of mind at that time. I wish I could share what history he has created for himself.


Poor,poor victim. How horrible to have had this happen to her. 80 year old men are supposed to be kind, loving grandfathers not ugly, sick sexual predators. Your day of judgement will be coming sooner rather than later and you'd probably better worry about that,creep.


Piece of garbage. You have two daughters 1 named Diane?


Moot point. No points awarded.

Another Opinion

KURTje, please don't bring his children into this only because he probably would have to have some help getting their names correct. He had an ex-wife who is a lovely lady that was their influence. She was humiliated to no end with his behavior until he left the area for Georgia probably 30 or 35 years ago. This man always talked the "Christian" lingo. Remember his ponzy scheme of 6 million $ of his church members which was printed in the NR. It was reported by a victim that he could look you in the eyes and speak so compelling knowing he was being dishonest. Madre, I believe his day of judgement is first on earth and then at the Pearly Gates! Pray for a jury who makes a just decision.


Thanks. Thought so. It is all about attitude(s). Here ya go Diane.


...still a moot point.

Another Opinion

KURTje, Seriously the embarrassment and pain he has caused his family for years, his children have suffered enough. This is about "Zeke" as he was known not his children. Don't pass the responsibility or shame for his behavior onto them. This is all his to bear!


AO please understand something, years ago Diane ran her mouth about a few things she was not qualified to speak about. Imo, selfishness is shared with her & her father.

Yall Make Me Sick

What a sick jerk. He needs to be punished to the max for what he has done. He has no respect for anyone else or himself for that matter. If you don't want your business put out there than don't get into trouble & don't make the paper.