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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2004

Dispute over woman cited as motive in killing

Cyrus Tyler Oelke Cyrus Tyler Oelke

Cyrus T. Oelke, a 37-year-old Defiance bartender known by his middle name, Tyler, was shot early Saturday morning in a dispute over a woman, Defiance County Sheriff David Westrick said yesterday after charging a neighboring factory worker and farmer, Rex Allan Kuhn, 45, with murder.

Bond for Mr. Kuhn, of 16906 Buckskin Road in Delaware Township near Sherwood, was set at $750,000 cash yesterday by Defiance Municipal Judge John Rohrs. Mr. Kuhn requested a court appointed attorney and is to appear in court again tomorrow. He remained in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio last night.

Mr. Oelke was found shot to death outside the recreational vehicle where he lived at 21260 Switzer Road in Noble Township east of Defiance by a friend who stopped to see him about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

Rex Kuhn Rex Kuhn

Mr. Oelke and Mr. Kuhn were both single and lived alone, the sheriff said. Neither was familiar to law enforcement authorities. The woman who was the subject of the dispute is a single Defiance County woman about the age of the men, the sheriff said. He declined to name her.

Sheriff Westrick said he had no reason to suspect drugs or alcohol were involved. The two men lived about five miles apart. Mr. Kuhn owns about 40 acres of farmland in his name, according to Defiance County auditor's records, and farms about 200 acres. He graduated in 1977 from Fairview High School, south of Ney, and Four County Career Center where he was in the Occupational Work Experience program.

The news of Mr. Oelke's murder hit his three older siblings

Experience Program. The news of Mr. Oelke's murder hit his three older siblings and his 81-year old mother hard.

"Yesterday was Mother's Day, and we had to go pick out her baby's casket," his sister Toby Richard said.

She said she did not know the name of the woman who her brother and Mr. Kuhn had argued about before the shooting.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions," she said.

The murder is the first that the Defiance County Sheriff's Department has handled this year.

Mr. Oelke had been a bartender for a couple months after he was laid off from a factory job, his sister said.

He joined the Army after graduating in 1985 from Defiance High School and Four County Career Center, where he was in the appliance service program. He later worked in several northwest Ohio plants, including Campbell Soup Co. In the 1990s he tended bar at the Moose Lodge in Defiance, and remained a member after he stopped working there. Until his death he had been employed in another Defiance tavern.

He was married for about three years and divorced in 1997, but he continued to date his ex-wife, Ruth Oelke, off and on.

"It was always kind of a joke in our family," his sister said of the continuing relationship. The couple had also dated for years before their marriage.

Mr. Oelke liked to read, especially history, and appeared to his sister to have a photographic memory for names and dates. He was fond of children and animals and could make a joke of almost anything - even the testicular cancer that he was diagnosed with in the 1980s.

"He was kind of happy-go-lucky," his sister said. "Money meant nothing to him."

He slept in a recreational vehicle on the property where he grew up and had been working on and off for several years at tearing down the house, which had become dilapidated. He spent much of his time at his sister's home about five minutes away, where his mother also lived.

Surviving are his mother, Bette Rohrbaugh; brother, Kim Oelke; and sisters, Linda Oelke Brown and Toby Richard. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in Mast-Mock-Hoffman Funeral Home, Defiance, where visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. tomorrow. The family suggests tributes to the American Cancer Society or Defiance County Humane Society.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:


or 419-724-6102.

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