Monday's conviction of Ralph Doren for the 1991 murder of Deana Meeks marked the end of a long-running investigation by Northwood Police, but they've still got work to do.
Chief Gerald Herman said yesterday that with the Meeks case wrapped up, he now plans to reopen the unsolved murder of Michael Bollman, who was shot five times in the head inside a used car dealership on Woodville Road on Dec. 20, 1996.
Chief Herman said he has read through the case file and already has identified a number of leads that detectives need to follow up on.
"I'm going to start with the background of who this young man is. I don't see that in here," the chief said. "In the Meeks case, it was pretty well-documented who Deana was. I've got to find out who this kid is, who he hung out with, what kind of person he was."
Mr. Bollman turned 26 the day he was killed at the former Car Corral at Earl Street and Woodville Road just south of the I-280 interchange. A 1989 graduate of Ottawa-Glandorf High School in Putnam County and a 1993 graduate of the University of Toledo, he was hired in 1994 as a finance manager at the car dealership.
According to police reports, Mr. Bollman was working alone at the time he was killed. The owner arrived around 12:20 p.m. and found him on the floor in a pool of blood.
Like the Meeks case, police pursued a number of suspects in the days and weeks after the murder, but they never obtained enough evidence to take the case to the prosecutor's office.
Chief Herman, who came to Northwood in 2000 after 14 years with Sylvania police, said he plans to re-examine the Bollman case in much the same way he reopened the Meeks case in 2003.
"It was just a matter of, 'Can we make sure everything was followed up on that needed to be followed up on?'" he said.
"That's how I approached the Meeks case, and I felt we could go a little further. I pushed and pushed and pushed," he said.
In that case, Doren already had been identified as a suspect through investigative work done in 1997 by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the Wood County Prosecutor's office.
By going back and interviewing witnesses again, authorities in Northwood were able to compile enough new evidence to take the case to the prosecutor, who presented it to a grand jury for an indictment.
On Monday, a jury in Wood County Common Pleas Court found him guilty of cutting Miss Meeks' throat.
Judge Reeve Kelsey sentenced Doren to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. He is to begin serving the sentence when he is paroled from Michigan, where he is serving 30 to 60 years for a rape in Monroe County.
John Helm, investigator with the Wood County Prosecutor's Office, said he's pleased to see Northwood taking on another cold case.
"We would look forward to any re-examination by someone new. That's always a good thing," he said.
Helen Bollman, grandmother of Michael Bollman, said she had almost given up on knowing what happened to her grandson.
"We thought he was a neat grandson," she said, adding that she was encouraged by news that the case may be reopened. "Just thinking about it makes me sad but I think it's best we know."
Contact Jennifer Feehan