FINDLAY - The decomposed body of a man found in a shallow grave was identified through dental records yesterday as a business owner last seen alive leaving a Findlay bar with a stripper.
The body of Fred Smith was identified the same day the woman, Tabatha Ulsh, admitted her involvement in the death, saying Mr. Smith had tried to attack her. Ms. Ulsh said she feared for her life because he had a gun.
“I believe even if I would have let him sit there and rape me that he would still kill me,” she told KGBT-TV in Harlingen, Texas.
Ms. Ulsh, 24, of Cygnet, and her boyfriend, Jimmie Woodland, 27, of Fostoria, were arrested Monday in Brownsville, Texas, where U.S. Customs agents stopped Mr. Smith's stolen vehicle on a routine inspection as they entered Texas from Mexico. The two were charged with interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle and were in the Cameron County jail in Brownsville last night.
Authorities said Mr. Smith, 43, of Eaton, was last seen at Wooley Bulley's in Findlay about 12:30 a.m. Saturday with Ms. Ulsh. Two of Mr. Smith's friends who were with him at the bar told police the woman approached them, told them she was a stripper, and flirted with Mr. Smith. His friends left for 30 minutes and when they returned, the woman, Mr. Smith, and his car were gone. Relatives reported him missing the following night when Mr. Smith, who was in Findlay for a trap-shooting competition, didn't show up at a family reunion in Columbus.
Mr. Smith's wife, Denise, said she was aware of Ms. Ulsh's allegations but did not wish to comment.
Ms. Ulsh sobbed through most of her television interview as she explained how Mr. Smith, a married father of three, had picked her up at the bar and tried to rape her. She said she defended herself without Mr. Woodland's help.
“I went and picked him up and never told him what happened,” she said.
When asked what happened to Mr. Smith, Ms. Ulsh replied: “I can't tell you that.”
Ms. Ulsh said she fled to Mexico with Mr. Woodland in Mr. Smith's vehicle “because I was scared and I needed to get away.” She said she didn't expect anyone to believe her story about the attack because she was nothing but “white trash,'' while Mr. Smith was an upstanding member of the community.
Douglas Hess, Wood County coroner, said an autopsy showed Mr. Smith died early Saturday - sometime just after he left the bar. He said authorities couldn't pinpoint a time of death.
He said Mr. Smith died of multiple head injuries. He had no other major injuries.
The coroner said the autopsy did not determine where Mr. Smith was killed. The body was found just south of Cygnet in a remote area just off I-75.
Mr. Smith was president of Rexarc International, a family-owned business that makes piping systems and welding equipment in southeast Ohio.
A task force of area authorities, including the FBI, continues to investigate.
News of the arrests shocked Ms. Ulsh's and Mr. Woodland's family. Ms. Ulsh's grandmother, Margie Brown, said the two grew up on the same street and played together as children. “I don't know about their relationship now,” she said.
Ms. Brown said her granddaughter told her recently that she and Mr. Woodland planned to move to Georgia.
“When she called me, she wasn't working. Jimmie was working. She told me they were getting ready to move, and she would call me when they got there,” Ms. Brown said.
She said her granddaughter had been in trouble for years, most of it related to drinking and drugs. She said Ms. Ulsh worked as a stripper in area clubs.
Ms. Smith said Wood County officials called yesterday and told her Mr. Smith's body had been positively identified. She said a funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John's United Church of Christ in West Alexandria.
She said the family asks that tributes take the form of contributions to the church.
“Our church had a fire this last year, and Fred was a major part of helping with the renovations,” she said. “We thought he'd like that.”