Autopsies expected for Ohio man, 4 slain relatives

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2011 6:12 AM
Autopsies expected for Ohio man, 4 slain relatives

Investigators hope forensic evidence and autopsies on an Ohio man and four relatives he's suspected of murdering will help them piece together the links between the rural home where the relatives' bodies were found and the city neighborhood about 90 miles away where the man died in a shootout with police.

Autopsies on the four victims are expected to be done by Monday, and an autopsy for the man is planned this week.

Randle Lee Roberts II died Saturday in the shootout with Columbus police, who didn't know then that he was sought in the quadruple homicide at a home along a two-lane highway amid rolling green hills just outside the town of West Union in southern Ohio.

An 8-year-old girl apparently slept through the fatal shootings, then awoke Saturday and alerted a neighbor that something horrible had happened overnight. The neighbor called authorities, who were stunned by what they found.

When they arrived, Adams County Sheriff Kim Rogers said, cartoons were still playing on a television in the girl's room _ where Roberts had been staying for several months, apparently because he was a burglary suspect and there were warrants for him in the Columbus area. Court records show Roberts, 27, faced felony charges of burglary and receiving stolen property late last year and failed to appear in court.

Investigators learned Roberts had told the girl Friday night she could sleep in her own room and he'd take the couch instead.

"We were unaware he was here," Rogers said. "I don't know what set him off."

The neighbors heard nothing, and there were no signs of a struggle, the sheriff said. The girl's 34-year-old mother, Kendra Stephens, and 11-year-old sister, Harley, were found in one bedroom. The door to a second bedroom was locked, so authorities broke through a window to find 46-year-old Sonja Stephens dead in bed.

In the living room, upright in a chair, they found 68-year-old George Stephens, grandfather of Roberts' wife. Authorities are trying to clarify how the others are related.

Investigators believe they were shot with a semiautomatic weapon but still are evaluating evidence. Several weapons were taken from the Columbus shootout scene, and authorities were trying to sort out which ones belonged to police and which was used by Roberts.

Roberts had a concealed-carry permit from Franklin County that had expired in January, authorities said.

Neighbor Karen Kimmerly, whose children rode the bus with the Stephens girls, said the killings were a shock to the rural southern Ohio community, which she compared to the idyllic small town on "The Andy Griffith Show."

"I consider this like a Mayberry town," she said. "This should be a sanctuary."

People coming out of a Sunday service at Bible Baptist Church, across the street from the Stephens' home, conveyed a feeling of reverence and turned grim-faced when asked about what happened. Several said it wasn't appropriate to discuss such things on a Sunday.

Investigators interviewing neighbors had quickly learned Saturday that Roberts had stayed at the home but was from Columbus and that his wife worked in that area, so they called police there.

"At that point, they didn't know we were looking for him, and we didn't know he was involved in a shootout," Rogers said.

As Adams County authorities were beginning their investigation, police in Columbus had responded to two calls about shots fired into homes and ended up pursuing a vehicle driven by Roberts. He crashed the two-tone pickup truck in a residential area, fired at the officer chasing him and ran off, evading authorities for more than 10 minutes before a shootout erupted at about 11 a.m., police Sgt. Rich Weiner said.

Roberts had tattoos that helped authorities in both areas confirm they were talking about the same man.

Three officers were shot in the exchange and were treated for injuries that weren't life-threatening.

Another man who was shot also was hospitalized with injuries that weren't life-threatening. Police said the man was related to Roberts but didn't say how. He wasn't charged.

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Franko reported from Columbus.