Saturday, February 27, 1999

Butler sheriff's unit nabs felon


Tip leads to fugitive's arrest

BY JANICE MORSE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The Butler County sheriff's fugitive unit, which just began operation Feb. 5, snagged another felon on the run Thursday night.

        Deputies Paul Newton and Melinda Smith, who are assigned to the fugitive unit, followed an informant's tip to an address in the 1300 block of Carriage Hill Lane, Hamilton, and arrested Malachi Hopkins, 23.

        Mr. Hopkins was wanted for allegedly violating probation he was serving for his involvement in an attempted murder-for-hire scheme in Preble County, police said. Mr. Hopkins will face charges there.

        “Again, it shows what a tremendous tool this fugitive unit is,” Detective Sgt. Mike Craft said Friday. “An agency from another county contacts us about a suspect, and 48 hours later, we have him in custody.”

        Preble County Sheriff's De tective Frank Ford said he contacted Butler County on Tuesday, the same day a warrant was issued for Mr. Hopkins' arrest.

        Authorities had reason to believe Mr. Hopkins was somewhere in Butler County.

        In 1997, Mr. Hopkins, of Fairfield, and his older cousin, Rex Holman of Hamilton, told authorities that Hamilton hotel owner Michael Sorber paid them $4,000 to kill James Sebald, a Gratis-area man with whomt Mr. Sorber's ex-girlfriend was then living. Mr. Holman fired six shots at Mr. Se bald, but missed, and Mr. Hopkins drove the getaway car, Detective Ford said.

        Mr. Sorber, 54, owned the Grand Hotel, a constant source of problems for Hamilton police. He committed suicide by drug overdose in his Fairfield Township home on Aug. 6, when he was scheduled to begin serving a two-year sentence for his involvement in the murder-for-hire scheme.

        Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Holman were sentenced to two years on reduced charges of felonious assault. Details of his alleged probation violation could not be obtained because probation officer Bob Davis did not return a telephone call Friday.

        Sheriff Harold Don Gabbard created the unit because of his concern about the growing number of warrants in the county.

        When the unit was created, there were 348 outstanding fugitive warrants issued by Butler County, plus uncounted numbers of warrants for fugitives who fled other counties, but are believed to be staying in Butler, Sgt. Gebhart said.

        Sgt. Gebhart on Friday didn't have totals available for the number of arrests the unit has made since it began operation, but noted the unit tallied seven arrests in its first week of operation.

        “And that was way more than we'd hoped for, because these people are really hiding,” Sgt. Gebhart said. “They've got family and friends that are helping cover them, so we really have to dig.”

        Anyone with information about a suspected fugitive may call the sheriff's warrants division at 887-3676.

       



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