Saturday, March 1, 2003

Tipster's account leads to arrest

Acquaintance reported encounter with suspect

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer


HAMILTON - Wearing yellow gloves that appeared to be bloodstained, "Joe Bob" was carrying jewelry wrapped in a bed sheet, court documents say.

He walked to an East Avenue address Monday night and announced he had just robbed and killed a man, according to the account.

But an acquaintance "didn't much believe" Joe Bob, court records say, until he saw Tuesday's TV news reports of a suspected double homicide on Harmon Avenue.

Spooked, the tipster went to the police.

Those events resulted in the arrest of Donald Joseph Ketterer, also known as "Joe Bob," in the torture-slaying of 85-year-old Lawrence B. Sanders on Shuler Avenue. As of Friday evening, no one had been charged in the nearby Harmon Avenue case.

Police said they expect further court action in Ketterer's case next week.

Newly released court documents show that tips from Ketterer's acquaintance led police to Ketterer on Tuesday - while he was still in possession of Sanders' belongings, including eyeglasses, Catholic religious articles and a small box addressed to Sanders' deceased sister, Rose.

Police followed those clues to Sanders' home, where they found a rear door ajar - and Sanders dead on the kitchen floor; his killer had left behind household implements that had been used to torture him.

In a search warrant affidavit, police say the East Avenue tipster also told investigators that Ketterer had disclosed a motive for the slaying and had described the attack on Sanders - a description that jibes with findings the Butler County coroner has released.

Detectives on Wednesday seized several items from Ketterer's Fairview Avenue apartment, including shoes, a mask and a bloody knife, a search warrant inventory says.

Sanders lived around the corner from the Harmon Avenue residence of Donald and Helen Riley, whose bodies had been discovered about 20 hours earlier. Police on Friday said they still were investigating whether the cases were related, despite significant differences between the crime scenes.

Sanders' home was ransacked; the Rileys' was not, authorities have said.

A search warrant shows police removed nothing from the Rileys' home. However, the document shows officers spotted some evidence of a possible intruder: footprints in the snow, leading away from a locked basement door.

Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt has ruled that Helen Riley, 55, bled to death from cuts to her neck. However, Burkhardt has not yet ruled on the cause of death for Donald Riley, 44. He had suffered from liver disease, Burkhardt said, and laboratory test results are needed to determine the cause of his death.

However, the cause of Sanders' death was obvious, Burkhardt said: multiple trauma, including a crushed chest and fractured skull.

Burkhardt also said Sanders had been tortured with various instruments, including scissors - information that was released Wednesday, after an informant told police "Joe Bob" had admitted stabbing his robbery victim in the neck with scissors and stepping on the victim's chest, a court record says.

Sanders' killing happened Monday, two days before Ketterer was scheduled to appear in Hamilton Municipal Court on a Feb. 18 robbery charge. Ketterer had said he asked a man for money that he "needed for court," the tipster told police. When the man replied he had no money, Joe Bob "decided to rob him," the informant said.

When police tracked down Ketterer, he "had visible injuries to the left side of his head and to both of his hands, which were bandaged," police said in an affidavit. But Ketterer claimed he had sustained those injuries in a struggle with a pair of robbers.

Police said Ketterer offered an explanation for having Sanders' belongings: "He stated that he bought (the bag and its contents) from a man he did not know outside of a bar on Harmon Avenue."


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