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Published: Friday, 8/3/2001

Pair linked to slaying appear in federal court

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Just hours after she killed businessman Fred Smith, Tabatha Ulsh and her boyfriend used the dead man's credit cards to go on a $1,600 shopping spree while fleeing to Mexico, according to court documents.

In court documents released yesterday, authorities said Ms. Ulsh, 24, gave them directions to Mr. Smith's shallow grave just off I-75 in rural Cygnet.

When they arrived July 24, police said they found the man's decomposed body, along with money and a perfume bottle - items Ms. Ulsh said she had dropped during the burial.

“I love you, Mom,” Ms. Ulsh yelled through tears to her mother, Rose McCartney, as she was escorted onto an elevator after her appearance yesterday in U.S. District Court.

Ms. Ulsh, 24, sobbed and shook violently during her court appearance. She and her boyfriend, Jimmie Woodland, 27, were in court to face federal charges for taking Mr. Smith's stolen vehicle across state lines.

CTY August 2, 2001  Jimmie Woodland, of Fostoria,  leaves the Federal Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio under guard following his arraignment for the theft and interstate transport of the vehicle of Fred Smith of the Dayton area. Smith had been murdered previous to the theft.  [Person on left is unidentified. ] Jetta Fraser/Blade CTY August 2, 2001 Jimmie Woodland, of Fostoria, leaves the Federal Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio under guard following his arraignment for the theft and interstate transport of the vehicle of Fred Smith of the Dayton area. Smith had been murdered previous to the theft. [Person on left is unidentified. ] Jetta Fraser/Blade
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The two were arrested July 23 in Brownsville, Texas, where U.S. Customs agents stopped Mr. Smith's vehicle on a routine inspection as they entered Texas from Mexico.

The pair were extradited to Toledo on Wednesday. They remained at the Lucas County jail last night without bond pending a hearing in federal court Aug. 13.

Neither spoke in court, except to answer yes or no to questions from Magistrate Vernelis K. Armstrong. Ms. Ulsh broke into tears the moment she saw three family members sitting outside the courtroom.

No one has been charged in connection with the death of Mr. Smith, 43, of Eaton, which is near Dayton in southwest Ohio.

He was in Findlay for a trapshooting competition when he disappeared. He was last seen alive leaving Wooley Bulley's bar with Ms. Ulsh about 12:30 a.m. July 21.

According to court documents, two friends of Mr Smith who were with them that night told police that an unknown woman approached them at the bar. They said she flirted with Mr. Smith and told him them she was a stripper from Toledo. She said she wanted to go to Mexico.

The two friends later left, and when one of them returned, Mr. Smith, the woman, and his car were gone.

Ms. Ulsh emphatically shook her head back and forth when the magistrate recapped the alleged events of that night.

The court records also show that Mr. Smith's credit cards were used sporadically in a shopping spree in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas, starting at 8:05 a.m. the day of his death. Authorities believe he was hit over the head and killed early that morning.

Credit card purchases included $522 at a Wal-Mart in Plainfield, Ind., and another $491 in Elfington, Ill. Authorities said $689 was spent for goods at an unknown store in Blythville, Ark.

Investigators said they have not established where Mr. Smith was killed, but they are looking into a 911 call made by a Fostoria resident the night he disappeared. Mr. Woodland's last known address was in Fostoria.

Lt. Chuck Frizzell of the Wood County sheriff's office said a caller reported to police they saw someone getting beat up about 3 a.m. July 21. Mr. Smith reportedly left the bar with Ms. Ulsh about 12:30 a.m. the same day.

“We've got to see if we can connect all that stuff,” he said. “We're not sure if there's anything to that at all.”

During a televised interview in Texas, Ms. Ulsh said she killed Mr. Smith in self-defense because he had tried to rape her. She said Mr. Woodland was not involved in the murder.

Wood County Prosecutor Alan Mayberry said a local investigator interviewed Ms. Ulsh Wednesday night, just after she arrived from Texas.

But he would not say what Ms. Ulsh told authorities or whether it followed her claim that she killed Mr. Smith in self-defense.

“Some of those [claims] might be the same. Some may be different,” he said.

He said the case could be presented to a Wood County grand jury on Aug. 15.

Her attorney, Adrian Cimerman, said he was aware of Ms. Ulsh's claim of self-defense. He said he needs to review evidence in the case before he can comment further.

“I wish she hadn't made those statements, but it might help her defense,” he said.

Mr. Cimerman said he expected federal charges to be dropped if Ms. Ulsh is indicted by a Wood County grand jury.

Blade staff writer Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.



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