Sunday, August 26, 2001

Trial to begin in businessman's death

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

        FOSTORIA, Ohio — The way friends and family describe it, Tabatha Ulsh and Fred Smith lived in different worlds.

        Ms. Ulsh made money stripping in small clubs. Mr. Smith ran a family-owned welding company. She had gotten into trouble with drugs. He sang in the church choir.

        They met at a bar a month ago when she took an empty seat next to him. A few hours later they walked out together — she led the way and he followed. His friends at the bar never saw him again.

        Ms. Ulsh, 24, is charged with killing Mr. Smith, 43, and taking his credit cards and Chevy Blazer so she could get to Mexico.

        She and her boyfriend, Jimmie Woodland, 27, are scheduled to be arraigned Monday on charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

        Police say her boyfriend's mother and half-brother also played a part. They are also scheduled for arraignment Monday.

        Investigators say they have recovered two shovels, one used to knock Mr. Smith unconscious and another to dig his grave. They hit him so violently in the head with a shovel that the metal snapped off, authorities said.

        A videotape of Mr. Woodland and his mother shows them buying two shovels just hours before they dropped Ms. Ulsh off at the bar.

        Days later, Mary Jane Woodland, 46, washed off one of the shovels and returned it to Wal-Mart for a refund, investigators said.

        Police recovered Mr. Smith's Blazer with a bloodstained backseat when Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland were caught trying to re-enter the United States from Mexico. Surveillance video from gas stations and Wal-Marts between Ohio and the border show the pair using Mr. Smith's credit cards, authorities said.

        And witnesses have told authorities they saw Mr. Woodland, his half-brother and Ms. Ulsh punch and kick Mr. Smith until he was unconscious and then shove him into the Blazer.

        How Mr. Smith and Ms. Ulsh ended up together is a mystery.

        Investigators are looking into the possibility Mr. Smith was drugged. Witnesses at the bar say they saw Ms. Ulsh put something in his drink just before they walked out. Toxicology results are pending.

        Mr. Smith's friends and family said they didn't want to talk because of the pending court case.

        Mr. Smith, a married father of three, was in Findlay — about 40 miles south of Toledo — for a trapshooting tournament.

        Mr. Smith almost got away near the couple's home in Fostoria.

        He broke free from his captors and ran into a street for help — just three blocks away in the opposite direction was the Fostoria police department, witnesses told police.

        Yelling for help, he ran toward a shadow in the street. But that person was Mr. Woodland's half-brother, Joe Alexander, who tripped Mr. Smith and kicked him, witnesses told police.

        Ms. Ulsh and Mr. Woodland threw Mr. Smith into the SUV, driving to a remote lane near Interstate 75 “where he was finished off,” Wood County Prosecutor Alan Mayberry said.


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