‘It doesn’t make sense,’ said Sharmar Robinson as she peered into the Strausses’ apartment window. ’They didn’t seem like murderers.’ She and her daughters live in the duplex’s upstairs apartment.
Though his body remains missing, Brian Martin is dead, police say.
He was bludgeoned, allegedly by a woman with whom he was romantically involved and that woman’s husband. Police searched through the couple’s East Toledo apartment, ripped through their trash, questioned their neighbors but, still, no Mr. Martin.
“Our best information right now is leading us to believe that his body may be in some type of barn or shed-type of structure,” said police Sgt. Joe Heffernan. “ … We're asking everybody from Toledo to Anderson, [Ind.], if you have a barn or some type of shed or something like that on your property, take a look.”
If someone finds something suspicious, police ask that they not touch anything but call 911 immediately.
Police have charged Robert and Desirae Strauss, both 36, of 2140 Consaul St., with murder. Both were being held in the Madison County jail near Anderson, Ind. Mr. Strauss is being held in lieu of $80,000 bond for false informing. Desirae Strauss is held on an unspecified parole violation from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. When the two are booked into the Lucas County jail will depend on whether they opt to waive their extradition hearings.
In court documents, police allege that the couple bludgeoned Mr. Martin, 52, of Ypsilanti, on June 22 inside the couple’s first-floor apartment inside a red-brick duplex. Sergeant Heffernan declined to comment on whether a suspected weapon was recovered from the home. Affidavits state that witnesses and “various forms of forensic evidence” point toward Mr. Strauss and his wife as suspects.
June 22, the date that police believe Mr. Martin was killed, was the last time anyone saw or heard from the victim, who was in Toledo to coach a softball tournament, said his cousin Michele Smith of Cincinnati. That night he was to meet friends in Louisville, but never showed up and never called. There was no activity on his bank accounts and, several days later, his family reported him missing.
The web began to untangle on Wednesday when the Strausses were stopped — in Mr. Martin’s car — by a police officer with the Anderson, Ind., Police Department.
“The cop there did an awesome job,” Sergeant Heffernan said. “He was kind of realizing that the story wasn’t adding up over a very minor encounter and it led back to Toledo and Mr. Martin being missing.”
The “minor encounter” and ensuing investigation allowed police to develop probable cause and to obtain a search warrant for the Consaul Street apartment. Charges were filed Thursday.
Anderson police did not respond to a request for a police report about the July 8 stop. It was not clear why the Strausses were in Anderson.
Ms. Smith said her cousin was romantically involved with Desirae Strauss for at least 18 months and said the two had argued over a paternity test for her twins, who were born April 18. Mr. Martin believed the children could be his and wanted to know for sure. Ms. Smith said Desirae Strauss would not consent.
“She broke it off with him, told him the babies were not his, and that’s why he was pushing for the paternity suit,” Ms. Smith said.
The Strausses’ five children are in the care of others. Julie Malkin, spokesman for Lucas County Children Services, said the agency is involved with the family. She could not comment on the status of the children, how long the agency has been involved, or why the agency stepped in.
Sharmar Robinson, who lived upstairs from the Strauss family, said the children were taken from the couple in early June, just after school let out for the summer.
“They weren’t mean to those kids, I can tell you that,” Ms. Robinson said. Her twin daughters, Shelby and Sidney Robinson, 15, both babysat for the family.
Shelby said, weeks ago, she saw Mr. Strauss sitting on the front porch of the home and she asked why police kept coming by looking for a guy named Brian Martin.
“Robert said he liked Desirae but she didn’t like him,” Shelby said.
The Robinson family said police have been by numerous times, tearing through the apartment, the basement, and the trash. The Robinsons said police even knocked out a wall in the Strausses’ living room and then patched it.
The apartment — the part visible through an uncovered front window — appeared to be in a state of disarray with trash and children’s toys strewn about the living room. The front window also was broken.
“All this went on right below us and we didn’t even know,” Ms. Robinson said.
Police ask that anyone with information about the crime call Crime Stoppers at 419-255-1111.