Saturday, August 23, 2003

6-month hunt for killer ends


Suspect charged; police say victims picked at random

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Within hours of his escape from a low-security Warren County lockup, a 22-year-old man made his way to Hamilton. He walked through the unlocked door of a home on Harmon Avenue, then robbed and killed a couple, authorities said Friday.

City police signed charges of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery against Jason Sam Campbell in connection with the Feb. 23 double homicide in the city's Five Points area. Donald Riley, 44, was beaten and strangled; his wife, Helen, 55, bled to death from multiple stab wounds.

Campbell, who has two previous Butler County convictions for property crimes, is being held in a Florida jail. He could be brought to face the murder charges here in several weeks, authorities said.

The charges against Campbell, who allegedly confessed to the slayings, lay to rest speculation that the Rileys' deaths were related to the slaying of their neighbor, Lawrence B. Sanders, 85. Police found the three bodies within a 20-hour span on Feb. 25. But investigators found no evidence to connect Donald J. Ketterer, who is charged with killing Sanders, to the Rileys' homicides, said city police Lt. Scott Scrimizzi.

The events leading to the Rileys' deaths began about 3:20 p.m. Feb. 23. Campbell and another inmate climbed over a fence and escaped from the Community Correctional Center, a 100-bed rehabilitation facility for offenders who are mostly nonviolent, authorities said. The jail has two to four escapes a year, officials said; Warren County Sheriff Tom Ariss said security there generally works well.

Campbell, known as "Snake"and "Batman," served almost two years in prison for Butler County convictions on breaking and entering and receiving stolen property. In late 2002, just a few months after his release, he was convicted of receiving stolen property again, and was sentenced to six months in the correctional center.

Three months later, Campbell escaped, authorities said. On the evening of Feb. 23 or early Feb. 24, Campbell arrived in Hamilton. He "took advantage of an unlocked door" and entered the Rileys' home as the couple slept, Prosecutor Robin Piper said. Asked about a motive for the killings, Piper said Campbell "has indicated their lives were worth $20." Police, in municipal court records, allege Campbell stole cash and clothing.

Campbell then traveled to Florida. On March 6, police in Jacksonville Beach arrested him while he was driving a stolen pickup truck. He has remained in the Duval County Jail since then.

But it took five months for a tip to surface that led police to Campbell.

On Aug. 6, Middletown Police Officer Aaron Smith listened as a frightened caller revealed that Campbell had admitted to killing two people in Hamilton. "It was the breaking point of the case," Smith told WCPO-TV (Channel 9)

E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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