Cincinnati Post article
From the Cincinnati Post, April 15, 1998


April 15, 1998
By Michael D. Clark

HAMILTON, Ohio - Veteran prosecutor John Holcomb doesn't know why so many gruesome murders seem to happen in Butler County but he knows they happen too often.

On Monday the multilated torso of a woman was found in driftwood on the banks of the Great Miami River by two boys.

The savagery of the circumstances surrounding the unidentified woman's death brought to the surface horrific memories for the Butler County prosecutor.

"We've seen more than our share of bizarre cases. I don't have nightmares, but I do remember all of them," said Holcomb of the murders his office has investigated since he joined the county's prosecution staff in 1964. He was elected chief prosecutor in 1972 and has held the office ever since.

Butler County, he said, still has the dubious distinction of being the site of the single largest family murder in the nation's history. On Easter Sunday 1975, James Ruppert walked into his mother's house on Minor Avenue in Hamilton with three pistols, a rifle and a box of bullets. In less than five minutes he shot and killed 11 family members, including his mother, brother, sister-in-law and all of his nieces and nephews.

"I stepped into all that carnage," the 61-year-old Holcomb recalled. "It was so bad that when I went into the basement you had to be careful because the blood would seep through the floorboards and it would drip on you."

He also remembers Butler County killer Bradford Gill, who coldly ended a little girl's life with a knife when she rejected his sexual advances. Gill stuffed the girl's body in a cabinet and then joined volunteers helping her family search for her.

Holcomb speculated bodies are found periodically along the Great Miami River because the mostly rural county has a high number of secluded roads in close proximity to the river.

He said more and more murders in the last decade have drugs as a root cause. Either the suspect is high, crashing down from a drug high, or desperately needing money for drugs.

The widely varying demographics of the fast-growing Butler County area may also play a role, he said.

"It may have something to do with the fact that this is a county that is partially metropolitan and partially rural. You have two worlds colliding here," said Holcomb. "But it's so elusive. Someone could write a thesis on this."

Some of Butler County's more notorious murders in recent decades include:

July 14, 1974: Fairfield resident Donald Korn raped and murdered a 72-year-old retired school teacher in her Tylersville Road home. Korn stabbed Ruth Doench repeatedly with a mattock and then buried the digging tool in her forehead before slitting her throat.

March 24, 1984: a 27-year-old Hamilton resident, described by neighbors as a devoutly religious man, lured 11-year-old Kerri Hintermeister into his garage and slit her throat while trying to molest her. Bradford Gill then stuffed her body into a work cabinet in his garage.

Nov. 23, 1984: Rhett Depew stabbed a woman, her daughter and her sister, then set fire to their home just south of Oxford. Depew, a resident of Oxford, attacked the three females in the home where he had rented a basement apartment two years earlier.

Feb. 9, 1987: John Lee Fryman of Fairfield invited Monica Lemen, 21, of Price Hill, to his trailer, which featured a black interior and Satanic altar. He killed her, then dismembered her body.

Valentine's Day 1990: Raymond Tanner killed his 21-year-old wife, after an argument in their Fairfield apartment, by sawing her head off. Tanner placed Maria Tanner's head on their bed, then walked up to police in blood-covered clothes and admitted the murder. He was released in 1996 after spending time in mental hospitals.

June 4, 1996: Timothy Allen Bradford killed, then skinned the body of his girlfriend, Tina Elaine Mott, in their Hamilton apartment. He even extracted her teeth with needle-nosed pliers. He then continued to live in the apartment. A decomposing human skull found Aug. 7, 1996, by boys fishing on Linden Lake in Butler County was ID'd as Ms. Mott through DNA tests.

May 31, 1997: a 16-year-old girl fatally shot her mother once in their Madison Township home. Renee Morrison shot her mother Linda Morrison in the head, killing her almost instantly.

Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard Burkhardt said the latest victim - a white female of undetermined age whose legs and arms were severed and her genitalia slashed - had likely been dead about six months.

The Clinton County Sheriff's office is awaiting the coroner's report before deciding whether the gruesome discovery should be become part of their investigation into the Carrie Culberson case.

Ms. Culberson disappeared in August 1996. Although her body has not been found, her boyfriend, Vincent Doan, was convicted last year of her murder.

"Everyone's just waiting to see the outcome of the autopsy," said sheriff's Lt. Brett Prickett.

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