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Accused killer Slider in court

Prosecution tries to determine pattern of behavior in Sparks case

Randy Joe Slider, 56, formerly of Marietta, appears in Noble County Common Pleas Court Tuesday for a pretrial hearing before Judge John W. Nau on charges of aggravated murder and murder brought by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

CALDWELL–Noble County Common Pleas Judge John W. Nau has until November to decide whether an alleged pattern of behavior and past crimes are admissible in a 27-year-old murder case.

The cold case is that of Patsy Sparks, of Marietta, who was 19 years old when she disappeared in 1992.

Her skeletal remains were found two years later in Noble County and her accused killer, Randy Slider, 56, formerly of Marietta, appeared before Nau Tuesday as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Slider’s attorney argued in a pretrial hearing.

Slider was indicted in January after new evidence, new witnesses and previously identified witnesses deciding to share their accounts came forward to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit.

But Slider’s defense attorney, Jack Blakeslee, argued Tuesday that using the details of the eight other victims in cases of rape, assault and kidnapping by Slider would be prejudicial.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Dan Kasaris, left, argues in the pretrial hearing for Randy Slider, in orange, in Noble County Common Pleas Court Tuesday. Also pictured are Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Seevers, next to Kasaris, and defense attorney Jack Blakeslee, left of Slider. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“You can’t throw a skunk in the jury box and try to tell the jury not to smell it,” Blakeslee said.

But Senior Assistant Attorney General Dan Kasaris argued that the cases are linked because of how each victim was targeted and removed to a remote location, as the state alleges Slider did with Sparks who was last seen leaving the Wheel Club, a former bar in Parkersburg, on April 22, 1992, with Slider.

“And four out of those eight contain admissions of guilt from the defendant that he committed them,” he added.

The case is set for a two-week trial beginning Jan. 28, 2019, with a final pretrial hearing scheduled for Nov. 20 at 1 p.m.

Kosaris outlined the tenets of each victim’s account Tuesday, using only initials to protect women’s confidentiality as victims of sexual crimes.

¯ The first case was that of D.S. who met Slider for the first time, Kosaris stated, at the Port, a bar in Marietta.

According to Blakeslee, this occurred in the late 1980s.

“She was by herself, as was Patsy Sparks, and needed a ride,” said Kosaris explaining both Slider and D.S. had been drinking.

Kosaris said the pair left the bar, picked up another six-pack of beer on the way to another establishment.

“But what he does is he takes D.S. to a remote area in Washington County, physically assaults D.S. at this location and then has sexual intercourse with her at this location,” Kosaris explained. “The defendant later admitted in another proceeding what he did.”

¯ J.P. was 24 years old when she met Slider, Kosaris explained.

He said Slider convinced J.P. to give him a ride home after meeting at the Norwood Tavern in Marietta.

“He gives directions to a remote location in Washington County,” Kosaris described. “Then he first assaults J.P. and then proceeds to try and rape J.P.”

¯ L.M. met Slider at the Four Seasons, in Marietta, Kosaris next detailed.

“L.M. needs a ride, the defendant says ‘OK I’ll give you a ride, we’ll go to the Whipple Tavern,'” Kosaris continued. “She got in the car with the defendant and the defendant then drove her to a remote location in the Stanleyville area of Washington County.”

Kosaris detailed an assault of L.M. which included the allegation that Slider ended the night with backing the car over L.M.

¯ B.S. met Slider in April 1991, Kosaris alleged.

This time, Kosaris explained, alcohol was involved but the meeting occurred as B.S. was walking by herself at night.

“(Slider) had a beer with him,” Kosaris said in court. “She thinks he’s taking her home but instead he gets on I-77, strikes her, threatens her with a broken beer bottle and directs her to take her clothes off.”

¯ A.H. was 16 years old, and a resident of Washington County, Kosaris next explained.

“A.H. knew the defendant,” said Kosaris. “The defendant picked up A.H., had alcohol with him and took A.H. with him again to a remote location and assaulted A.H.”

The final two victims mentioned by Kosaris are from the Cincinnati area, where Slider lived after serving an eight-year prison term for the assault of J.P.

Slider is currently serving a 40-year sentence on the 2002 case.

¯ R.H. he was convicted of threatening at knifepoint as she exited a mall, and then taking her to a remote location under a bridge in Hamilton County and raping her.

¯But his final victim, D.A., Kosaris explained, was held at knifepoint before Slider was arrested. Only she managed to escape by hitting Slider with a Coke bottle while he was driving.

“So what you have here your honor with these eight women is very similar facts, a very similar fact pattern and very similar conduct of the defendant,” concluded Kosaris. “This similar conduct as it relates to Patsy Sparks… it’s the same M.O.”

He reiterated the pattern, with Slider allegedly targeting victims when they’re alone at a bar and ending each incident in a remote area Slider was “well acquainted with.” In Sparks’ case this was an area of Noble County Slider would have known as a youth because his next-door neighbor owned the farm, contending that Slider would sled, hunt and work on that property, Kosaris said.

“He’s taking them to a remote area in a county to do something with them. Patsy Sparks (was) found in a remote area of Noble County, a mile and a half away from the closest highway,” continued Kosaris. “This evidence should be admitted to prove plan, motive, scheme, identity, lack of mistake (and) same modus operandi.”

WCSO Lt. Bruce Schuck and Lt. Jeff Seevers, members of the Cold Case Unit, were both present during the proceedings Tuesday and following the hearing Schuck said the pair were prepared to testify to the alleged facts in all eight victims’ cases. Other comments neither Schuck nor Seevers could give, adhering to a gag order by the court not to speak to specifics of the murder case prior to trial.

Blakeslee argued that the admission of the accounts for all eight victims would steer a jury to convict without providing a fair trial solely on the evidence against his client in the murder of Patsy Sparks.

“Listening to the state’s recitation of all of the facts set forth in those eight instances… This man is going to get convicted not because of the evidence of what we know took place on the 22nd of April,” he explained of his position. “He’s going to get convicted on these other acts because the jury is going to conclude that yeah, he’s done all of that other stuff well then he’s probably done this too. And I think that due process from the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Ohio trumps that.”

Blakeslee said in all eight instances the prosecution wants to be admitted, not a single mention of murder comes up.

Slider currently faces three counts of aggravated murder and one count of murder, all unscheduled felonies.

Nau has until the final pretrial to decide whether any of the evidence and testimony in the other eight cases will be heard during the trial for Sparks murder.

“I’ll take that matter under advisement and I will do my own research,” concluded Judge Nau Tuesday before setting the trial date. “I’ve got a pretty good idea of where we’re headed.”

Meanwhile, tensions in the gallery were high as both family of Sparks and victim J.P. watched with baited breath.

“She would have been 46 by now,” said Sparks’ mother Helen Francis, of Marietta, before meeting J.P. “I’d like to get a hold of (Slider) and take him piece by piece and I know my brothers would be the same way… Justice needs to be done.”

J.P., whose case was settled with a plea deal in 1993 where Slider admitted to felonious assault and gross sexual imposition, said she hopes the coming trial gives Francis and the rest of Sparks’ family closure.

“The hardest part has to be not knowing what happened to her,” J.P. said.

She blamed the jury who acquitted Slider in 1990 of D.S.’s case for not only her assault, but the death of Patsy Sparks and the additional assaults the Ohio Attorney General’s Office alleged and Sliders 2002 attacks.

“With every single one of us consent doesn’t involve beating the s ….. out of somebody,” said J.P., whose case also resulted in the admission by Slider that D.S. was one of his victims after jeopardy was attached. “Had they sent him to prison then, Patsy might still be alive and I would have never known him at all. So again, where did we drop the ball?”

J.P. said she never led on Slider and was clear with him as she drove him to the Stanleyville area of Washington County.

“By the time I realized it I was out in the middle of nowhere there weren’t too many options at that point,” she said. “Of course when I told him I was going to leave him there that’s what pissed him off and that’s when he hit me and told me we were going to (have sex). And then things went bad quickly.”

Slider broke J.P.’s jaw, nose and gave her two black eyes in the assault, which Kosaris linked to the remains of Sparks, stating that Patsy Sparks cause of death was ultimately ruled to be from damage to her skull.

J.P. said she originally drove Slider from Norwood Tavern to another Williamstown bar the night of her assault because they were playing pool. He later asked for a ride home and she said she agreed because it was snowing.

Eventually, Slider passed out in the vehicle from intoxication and J.P. ran.

“But he never changed who I was because I always knew it was his fault,” explained J.P. Tuesday. “You have a right to say what happens to you and you need to speak up so that nobody else, at least for eight years, has to go through it.”

She explained that it wasn’t until Slider had his hands around her neck that she stopped fighting him.

“That’s when I gave up, I thought I was going to die, I thought he would kill me,” she said.

Slider’s current case, facing charges of aggravated murder and murder, will again be before Judge Nau on Nov. 20.

***

Timeline:

¯Randy Joe Slider, 56, graduated from the Washington County Career Center in 1980.

¯He worked as a grocer and then a clerk at a lumber store in Washington County as a young adult.

¯Between 1981 and 1993 he was booked 20 times in the Washington County Jail, 14 of which were for driving under the influence.

¯Slider’s driver’s license was suspended five times, the longest for three years in 1985.

¯In 1989, Slider stood trial for five counts of rape in Washington County Common Pleas Court but was acquitted in 1990.

¯In the course of the trial, seven additional accusers came forward alleging Slider had assaulted them.

¯April 22, 1992: Slider is the last one seen with Patsy Sparks, 19, at the Wheel Club on Juliana Street in Parkersburg.

¯1993: Slider pleaded guilty to felonious assault and gross sexual imposition in Washington County Common Pleas Court. A 24-year-old woman who had given Slider a ride home from the Waterfront Lounge in Williamstown accused him of trying to rape her on a gravel road near a barn in a rural part of Washington County. He beat her but she escaped and walked through a snowstorm to find aid.

¯Dec. 19, 1994: Hunters in the woods of Noble County discover Sparks’ broken skull.

¯April 2, 2001: Slider is released from prison after serving eight years on the 1993 conviction. No family would take him in so he moved to a Hamilton County halfway house and registered there as a sexual predator.

¯After living in the halfway house for 16 months Slider moved to a mobile home in Clermont County around Aug. 14, 2002.

¯Sept. 27, 2002: Slider is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

¯Oct. 1, 2002: Slider is caught after a police chase through Butler County, after kidnapping and robbing two women within three days, holding them at knifepoint and raping one of them.

¯ Jan. 19, 2018: Slider is indicted on the Patsy Sparks case on three counts of aggravated murder, and one count of murder, all unclassified felonies.

Sources: Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Noble County Common Pleas Court, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Clerk of Courts, Fourth District Court of Appeals, Cincinnati Enquirer.

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