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Published: 5/7/2002

Jury in man's death will view crime scene

BOWLING GREEN - A jury will be taken to Fostoria this morning to see the area where Joe Alexander allegedly helped beat a Dayton-area businessman so badly he later died.

Mr. Alexander, 19, of Fostoria is charged with felonious assault, aggravated robbery, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of intimidation of a witness, and one count of tampering with evidence. The charges stem from the July 21 killing of Fred Smith, 43, of Eaton, Ohio.

It took a full day to choose a jury. Selection of the 12 centered on determining how much they had heard or read about the case. Two pools of prospective jurors were called into Wood County Common Pleas Court yesterday. Prosecutors and the defense attorney spent much of the day conducting individual interviews about what the prospective jurors knew about the case. At 5 p.m., the jury was seated and told to return at 8:30 a.m. today for a tour of the crime scene. The trial is expected to last all week.

In introducing the case to the jury pool, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Gary Bishop said the victim's wife will testify about how her husband was in Findlay with his buddies last summer for a trapshooting competition but never re|turned.

Mr. Bishop said witnesses and evidence will show Mr. Smith was lured from a Findlay bar by Tabatha Ulsh and later chased down a Fostoria street by Ms. Ulsh and her boyfriend, Jimmie Woodland. Mr. Alexander, who is a half-brother to Mr. Woodland, then helped beat Mr. Smith and throw his body into a Chevy Blazer, Mr. Bishop said.

He said Mr. Alexander's former girlfriend will testify that Mr. Alexander called her early that morning to drive him into the country, where he burned a bag of bloodied clothing after dousing it with gasoline.

Defense attorney Scott Coon cautioned the prospective jurors that this would not be "a black and white case."

"You're going to convict Joe Alexander of something. I'm pretty certain of that," Mr. Coon said. "The question is what you're going to convict him of."

He told the jurors it would be their job to determine in what part of the evening Mr. Alexander played a part.

"What Joe was involved in was about 120 seconds in Fostoria, and that's what we're going to focus our case on," Mr. Coon said.

Mary Woodland, the mother of Jimmie Woodland and Joe Alexander, pleaded guilty in January to tampering with evidence and obstructing justice in the case.

She was sentenced to one year in prison for buying the shovels used to bury Mr. Smith and for lying to police about what she did.

Six members of Mr. Smith's family, including his wife, mother, brother, and sister, attended the jury selection.



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