Thursday, August 16, 2001

Two indicted in Eaton man's death


Pair stole car to go to Mexico, authorities say

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

        BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — A man and woman were indicted Wednesday on charges they beat a Southwest Ohio businessman to death so they could use his vehicle and credit cards to get to Mexico.

        The aggravated murder indictments are the first charges in the slaying of Fred Smith, whose body was found July 24 in a shallow grave in northwest Ohio.

        Tabatha Ulsh, 24, and Jimmie Woodland, 27, were arrested two days later in Mr. Smith's sport utility vehicle and were charged with driving across state lines in a stolen vehicle. They pleaded not guilty to that charge.

        A Wood County grand jury indicted the couple on charges of felonious assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence. They could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder.

        Mr. Smith, 43, died because Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland wanted to go to Mexico but had no way to get there, county Prosecutor Alan Mayberry said Wednesday.

        “Fred's vehicle and his credit cards were just the ticket,” Mr. Mayberry said.

        Mr. Smith of Eaton had gone to Findlay, a city 15 miles from where his body was found, to compete in a trapshooting con test.

        Mr. Mayberry gave this account of what happened:

        Mr. Smith met Ms. Ulsh at a bar in Findlay. They left together and drove to nearby Fostoria, where Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland lived in an apartment with Mr. Woodland's mother and half brother, Joe Alexander. Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland grew up together and have been dating for several years.

        Witnesses told authorities that outside the apartment Mr. Smith started to run toward someone he saw in the street. But the person was Mr. Alexander, who tackled Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was punched and kicked until he was unconscious and then put into his vehicle.

        Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland drove to a remote lane near Interstate 75 in Cygnet, where Mr. Smith was beaten to death with a shovel, Mr. Mayberry said.

        The blows broke the shovel, so another was used to dig Mr. Smith's grave.

        Mr. Mayberry said investigators don't know why Mr. Smith left the bar with Ms. Ulsh. He said witnesses said they saw her put something in Mr. Smith's drink.

        Authorities expect to get toxicology results back next week that should indicate whether Mr. Smith was drugged.

        Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland were stopped July 26 trying to return to the United States from Mexico and were arrested, said U.S. Customs officials in Brownsville, Texas. Investigators aren't sure why they were crossing the border.

        Mr. Smith was president of Rexarc International, a family owned company in West Alexandria that makes manifold piping systems and welding equipment.

        Police said Mr. Woodland's mother, Mary Jane Woodland, 46, washed off the second shovel and returned it to the Wal-Mart where it had been purchased. She was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence and obstructing justice.

        Mr. Woodland and his mother bought the shovels hours before they dropped Ms. Ulsh off at the bar, said Wood County Sheriff's Lt. Chuck Frizzell.

        Mr. Alexander, 18, was indicted on charges of felonious assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, intimidation of witnesses and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors said he burned his clothes and those of Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland after the beatings.

        Scott Coon, an attorney representing Mr. Alexander, said he could not comment on the case. A message was left with an attorney for Mary Woodland.

        Charges against a third man were dropped Wednesday.

        Justin Doll, 18, of Fostoria had been charged with felonious assault and kidnapping. Prosecutors said he saw the beating in Fostoria but there wasn't enough evidence to prove he was involved.

        Mr. Doll's lawyer, Steve Spitler, said his client was riding his bicycle down the street and saw Mr. Smith beaten and shoved into the SUV.

        “He was just sitting on his bike in shock,” Mr. Spitler said.
       

       



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