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Washington County unit re-opens Fulton homicide case

Lt. Bruce Schuck, left, and Lt. Jeff Seevers prepare for a press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is reopening a double homicide case involving the deaths of a Palmer Township mother and her toddler child in 1995. Photo by Michael Kelly

The cold case unit of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is hoping someone out there has something they’d like to get off their conscience.

The unit — locally made up of Lt. Bruce Schuck and Lt. Jeff Seevers — announced Tuesday afternoon they have re-opened the unsolved homicide cases of Kimberly Fulton and her 17-month old son, Daniel Fulton, who died more than 24 years ago in Palmer Township.

The 28-year-old mother and her toddler son appeared to have perished in a mobile home fire, but investigation during the months that followed the March 1995 fire — which included exhumation of their bodies for further autopsy — disclosed that they had died before the fire, which investigators concluded was set in an effort to cover up the crime.

Three years later a man was arrested, but a Washington County grand jury declined to indict him, and the case went cold.

Schuck and Seevers said Tuesday they have reviewed the 15,000 documents connected with the case and, after several months of scrutiny, concluded the case can be solved.

“We decided to move ahead with this case, based on the existing evidence, witness availability and solvability,” Schuck said.

The department has taken billboard space on one of the main roads entering Beverly, displaying portraits of Kimberly and Daniel Fulton, along with information about their deaths and a dedicated phone number that can be used by people who think they might be able to help.

“We strongly believe that there are people in the community who have information,” Seevers said. “We urge them to call.”

Seevers and Schuck, with the help of experts from the Washington County prosecutor’s office, the Ohio Attorney General and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, have solved all three cold case homicides they have taken on since the cold case unit was set up in 2011. They both emphasized that such cases are often solved by bits of information that people think are inconsequential.

“We want to hear from people if they have any information at all, no matter how insignificant it might seem,” Schuck said.

Seevers said the first cold case the unit tackled — the murder of Patrick Arnold in Lower Newport in 2008 — was solved from an offhand remark.

“It was just a guy on a list of people to be interviewed, and he said something right at the end that put the whole case together,” Seevers said.

In addition to calling back witnesses and talking to people, the two noted that technology has advanced in the past two decades in a way that makes re-examination of evidence promising, particularly DNA. But Seevers said they are relying primarily on human memory, on people coming forward with details the original investigation didn’t have.

“For this case, we just felt the time was right,” Seevers said.

He said the department received some information a few months ago that prompted them to take another look at the Fulton homicides.

“Things have happened, developments we can’t discuss,” Seevers said. “Things arose, and now we’re waiting for someone to call. We’re hoping this weighs on the conscience of people.”

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, and we’re hoping that the billboard will increase awareness in the community,” Schuck said. “There are people out there who know what happened.”

Schuck was a deputy in 1995 and involved in the original investigation.

They noted that people with information they wish to share can do so anonymously, if they want, through the hotline — 740-760-0760 — which is a dedicated line for the Fulton case.

In a letter published in The Marietta Times in February 1997, addressed to “the murderer(s) of Kim and Daniel Fulton,” Kimberly Fulton’s mother, Vera Paxton, wrote, “How could you be so cruel to take a mother and brother away from Kim’s three other children? Daniel was only 17 months old and couldn’t even talk, how could he have done any harm to you? How can you face yourself and your family each day knowing what you are responsible for?”

In addition to solving the Patrick Arnold homicide case, the unit also has solved the 1981 murder of Lt. Ray Clark of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, shot to death by a colleague, Deputy Mitchell Ruble, who was arrested in 2014 and convicted before dying in prison. Last year, the unit’s work led to the conviction of Randy Slider in the murder of Patsy Sparks, a case dating back to 1992. Sparks was an 18-year-old from Marietta who disappeared in Parkersburg. Her body was found two years afterward, buried in a shallow grave in Noble County.

The case of Terri Roach, an 18-year-old from Belpre whose remains were found near Ohio 676 and Cole Coffman Road in 1990, remains unsolved, although the unit also is investigating that case.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to give justice and closure to these families,” Schuck said.

Michael Kelly can be contacted at mkelly@mariettatimes.com

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