Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Sentencing closes in 1983 slaying

Brown Co. man gets 7-25 years

By The Associated Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA, Ohio — A Brown County man was sentenced Tuesday to seven to 25 years in prison for the death of a Georgia man whose body was found in the Ohio River in 1983.

        Gerald Washburn, 53, pleaded guilty in Clermont County Common Pleas Court to voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Gary Houck of Clayton, Ga., who disappeared in 1981.

        Judge Jerry McBride imposed the sentence.

        “The victim's family is very happy with the results,” Clermont County Prosecutor Don White said Tuesday, noting the judge gave Mr. Washburn the maximum sen tence under sentencing guidelines in force in 1983.

        The plea spared the victim's family the trauma and uncertainty of a trial, Mr. White said.

        And, too, “it's very difficult to prove all the elements of (such an old) case,” he said. “This is a good result for everyone.”

        Mr. Washburn was arrested in April after a telephone tip to Clermont Coun ty authorities. He was indicted on a charge of aggravated murder, which carries a possible life sentence.

        Investigators said Mr. Washburn and Mr. Houck had been associates in a drug trafficking operation that transported cocaine and Quaaludes between Georgia and Michigan.

        Mr. Houck was 24 when he was reported missing on July 21, 1981, after he said he was going to work and left his parents' home in Georgia. On Sept. 19, 1983, police in the Ohio River village of Moscow found a body in a car submerged in the river.

        Mr. Houck was identified by skeletal remains.

        Mr. White said the motive for the killing was a combination of the theft of drugs and money from a drug deal and the fact that the victim was a potential witness against other individuals involved in drug sales. Investigators said that Mr. Washburn, who was living in Clermont County at the time of Mr. Houck's disappearance, was known to police through the initial investigation, but police were unable to locate him. The telephone tip in April helped police track down Mr. Washburn at a trailer park.


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