Friend: Slain Ohio woman was in difficult breakup

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2011 2:19 PM
Friend: Slain Ohio woman was in difficult breakup

Summer Inman strove for a new life with her children away from her controlling husband and his father, acquaintances say.

What she found instead, police say, was ghastly retribution: Her estranged spouse and her suspicious in-laws used a stun gun to abduct her, cinched a plastic zip tie around her neck and dumped her in the septic tank of their former church.

After the mother-in-law caved and tipped off investigators, authorities say, they removed the screws holding the cap to the septic system and found the 25-year-old woman's body, dressed in the T-shirt and pants she was wearing when she vanished.

"Summer had not gotten to do anything just for fun, just to be lighthearted and happy, for so long," said Inman's friend Jewel Cavinee, 59. "And she was starting to get to experience some of that again, and have money of her own and a life of her own and have freedom. And it was just all taken away."

The three defendants _ 47-year-old William Inman, 46-year-old Sandra Inman and their 26-year-old son, William Inman II _ have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and remain in jail on $1 million bond each. They could face additional charges when a grand jury convenes this month.

Their attorneys declined to comment or were unavailable this week.

Police said Summer Inman was snatched March 22 near a bank she cleaned in Logan, in a scenic, rural stretch of Appalachia abutting the Wayne National Forest about 45 miles southeast of Columbus.

Witnesses told authorities two men in dark clothing used a stun gun on Inman as they forced her into a white Ford Crown Victoria and pepper-sprayed a witness. A blond woman was driving, witnesses said.

William Inman II and his parents were arrested two days later, and police said they were seen on a car wash surveillance video appearing to vacuum and make alterations to a white Ford Crown Victoria.

They refused to speak to police for days until Sandra Inman negotiated with prosecutors and pointed authorities to her daughter-in-law's body near Faith Tabernacle Church, in an area that had been previously searched. Prosecutors said they couldn't talk about any deal they might have made.

Within hours, authorities had Summer Inman's body. The local newspapers, citing the county coroner, reported she had been bound with zip ties, including one pulled tight around the neck, and that an autopsy determined she had been strangled. The coroner hasn't returned messages left by The Associated Press.

It appeared she was killed quickly after being taken, though authorities couldn't say how long the body had been in the septic system, Logan Police Chief Aaron Miller said March 30, the day after the body was found.

The tank is behind a church that her husband and his parents had attended. The Inmans left the church about three years ago because the father-in-law said he felt called to preach, but subsequent attempts to start his own church were unsuccessful, said Cavinee, Summer Inman's friend.

Relatives of the suspects say there is more to the couple's tumultuous backstory than the heated divorce dispute revealed by authorities and in court documents. Friends of the woman's family say her in-laws' influence was part of the problem.

The unfolding story horrified residents of Logan, a town of 7,000.

"It's heartbreaking," said Charlotte Mason, 59, who has lived in the community for more than four decades and is helping organize a church fundraiser Saturday for Summer Inman's three children, ages 5, 3 and 1. "You think of her, you think of the kids, you think of her parents."

Cavinee grew close to Summer Inman and her parents through a church Inman attended during childhood and again more recently.

Cavinee had seen her at services the Sunday before she died, in her usual spot up front in one of the side pews. She seemed fine, according to Cavinee and the pastor, Michael Martin, who officiated at Summer Inman's funeral Monday.

The two said that Inman had initially seemed very happy in her marriage but that it became a very controlling relationship.

"I don't know that there was physical abuse, but there was a lot of emotional and mental abuse going on," Cavinee said.

Martin said William Inman II had worked with his father, a contractor, and that living with and constantly being around the older couple had caused tension in the younger couple's relationship.

"I don't think Willy has ever been on his own without his parents," Cavinee said.

Summer Inman filed for divorce in June after six years of marriage, seeking custody of the children and accusing her husband of being cruel and neglectful, according to court records.

She said her husband threatened to kill her if she "took the children from him" and that he had taken her pet cats and killed or abandoned them in retribution for a "perceived offense."

William Inman II and his father "had lost control of Summer and those children, and they just couldn't stand the thought," Cavinee said.

A sheriff's deputy went along protectively to help Summer Inman retrieve belongings from her in-laws' home on Dec. 1 and got into a scuffle with her father-in-law after he threatened to shoot her boyfriend, according to a report from the sheriff's department. The AP left messages for the boyfriend.

Larry McKinniss, who is married to the grandmother of Summer's husband, said it was "common knowledge" that the younger couple had problems in their marriage.

"(Summer) started living with a guy right in their house and then moved out with him," he said Tuesday, adding that his family would say more in a statement at a later date.

Summer Inman's attorney, Will Kernen, said she had maintained "a healthy attitude" during the court case.

"She was not bitter, nasty, mean or vindictive," Kernen wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "She was an excellent mother whose children's best interests always had first priority."

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Associated Press writer Kantele Franko contributed to this report.