Yeah, so yesterday I’m reading email, minding my own business; my cell phone chirps, alerting me to an incoming call. Thus ended my ‘routine’ day, exchanging it for a Day with the Homicide Unit.
For those that aren’t aware, I was a cop for 30-some odd years here in north central Ohio. I’ve forged some pretty solid friendships resultant of those years, ranging from fellow coppers to Chiefs of Police to prosecutors to sitting judges to councilmen to mayors to….well, you get the picture. Since retiring in 2013 I’ve closely followed events surrounding the local law enforcement scene and kept in touch with numerous guys and gals still wearing badges. Yesterday morning at 0808 hours, Captain Shari Robertson decided to give me a call.
“Hey, TC…I know this is kinda out of the blue, but I was wondering if you might be available with your metal detector a little later?”
“Absolutely”, I replied, “what time?” I knew it was gonna be good. When law enforcement needs someone with a metal detector it’s for good reason.
“I’m not sure yet. The detectives are still working the Jones ( not the victim’s real name ) unsolved homicide; Rob ( Det. Lt. Rob Skropits, head of the Major Crimes Unit ) will be calling you a little later, he’ll fill you in.”
We chatted a little longer, catching up on events since we last spoke two or three months ago. I was one of Shari’s supervisors when she first hired on at the PD back in the 90s and we’ve remained friends ever since. I’m very proud of Shari’s ascention in rank and what she’s accomplished during her career.
I told my wife Stacy about the call; she knew immediately that I was very excited over the chance to rub elbows once again with my brothers and sisters in blue while at the same time assisting on an investigation.
A little while later Lt. Skropits contacted me, giving me the address of the first location where I’d be needed and telling me we would be searching for a buried firearm which the detectives believed was used in the homicide. They’d obtained a search warrant for the house, located in a run-down section of the city, based on information they’d developed; if the weapon wasn’t located there, we’d be going to another area where it was possibly buried in a wooded lot.
I arrived at the first location an hour later after having checked to make sure I had fresh batteries in my Garrett AT Pro. Police vehicles, both marked and unmarked, lined one side of the short section of street, along with a couple of other cars belonging to the city’s Codes and Permits department. I’d soon learn why they were there.
I met Rob and his guys, along with close friend Doug Noblet, an Administrative Lieutenant whom I’d had in his field training period when Doug had first hired on, in the very small back yard of the house.
The conditions were appalling.
The yard was probably sixty feet by fifteen feet, enclosed by an assortment of fencing and piled with probably 50 trash bags containing rotting garbage. Very little grass existed; metal objects, however, abounded, as did mud. Bicycle parts and frames, pots and pans, tin cans, nuts, bolts, nails, foil…it was all there in abundance. So were the dog droppings; Animal Control officers had removed seven dogs from inside the deplorable conditions of the house.
Not exactly the best conditions in which to metal detect.
We cleared away as much of the metallic refuse as we could with gloved hands and I activated my machine. I set the iron discrimination at 35 but kept the iron audio on; this would give me a clearer ‘picture’ of what I was looking for: a small-caliber rifle.
There was constant, unending chatter in my headphones. I learned during the search that information indicated that the firearm was possibly buried near the fence in a corner; sure enough, a long, narrow iron signal was found in one of the corners; no joy, though, as it turned out to be an almost a foot-and-a-half long rusting steel rod of some sort.
It didn’t take very long to finish the area. Afterwards, while detectives still worked the inside of the house, Codes and Permits posted a ‘CONDEMNED’ sign on the front door; apparently, conditions were so poor that the house was uninhabitable. Det. Dave Sheurer, with whom I’d worked afternoons in the mid-90s on the streets, asked if I wanted to go inside the house. He’d told me how bad things were, saying that detectives had worn facemasks covering their mouths and noses while searching the upstairs portion of the house due to the smell and unhealthy air. I still can’t understand why people willingly live amid such filth.
I declined; I’d been in enough of those types of houses over the course of my career and I didn’t ever want to be inside another again. Another investigator, Sergeant Ken Carroll, had exited the basement, his pants covered with fleas. It was that bad. Be sure to see the photos of the back yard at the bottom of this entry; you’ll get the picture.
Finishing up, we stopped for lunch at a local Greek restaurant; Rob was gracious enough to pick up my tab. You’re wondering how coppers can eat right after experiencing such filth, right? It comes with the job. You get callous to those issues after enough years on the job.
The second location was in probably the worst area of the city; a wooded section of treeline with heavy underbrush which stood between government housing and a major highway was the target, and was probably five acres overall. Again, trash and metal abounded.
We spent probably two hours in this area, again with no luck. It was just too large an area, too brushy, the proverbial ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ type of thing. Rob indicated they’d try to develop their information further, narrow down an area where the possible murder weapon might be, and call me again.
I can’t wait.
You can read more law enforcement-related topics on my other blog, ‘Through An Old Cop’s Eyes’, here : http://mpd135.blogspot.com/