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Published: Friday, 7/1/2005

Parole ruling could free convict in 1977 homicide

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Twenty-eight years after he orchestrated a plan to murder a co-worker and enlisted several others to help him, Terry Williams may soon be a free man.

Having been behind bars since March, 1977, for the aggravated murder of Joseph Spitzman, Williams, now 55, was granted parole yesterday by the nine-member board of the Ohio Parole Authority.

He may be released as early as Aug. 1, assuming no one appeals the decision to the board, said Brian Niceswanger, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

Detective Tom Ross, a cold- case investigator with the Lucas County prosecutor's office, handled the case in 1977 and earlier this year called it one of the most brutal cases he'd ever investigated.

And though he said he doesn't plan on asking for a parole board hearing, he noted that Williams, who was given a life sentence, would face the death penalty today for the same crime. Ohio didn't have the death penalty at the time Mr. Spitzman was killed.

"There was kidnapping and prior calculation, and Terry was the one who planned it," he said. "Look how intricate the plan was."

A disgruntled ex-employee at the Reynolds Road Vacuum Cleaner Center, Williams had blamed the store manager, Mr. Spitzman, for costing him his job.

For months he talked of killing him and he recruited help from several other people - some of whom later told police they were high on drugs - to help him with the deed. A female acquaintance lured Mr. Spitzman to a parking lot where Williams and two other men confronted him, chased him with a truck, and then forced him to an apartment, where they tied him up, choked him, and finally slit his throat.

A fourth and fifth man were enlisted to clean the apartment and help move Mr. Spitzman's body, which wasn't discovered until days later. At least two other people were asked to cash checks that the men had taken from Mr. Spitzman.

Earlier this year, another former detective assigned to the case compared Williams to Charles Manson in the way that others followed his orders without questioning.

Each of the four men involved with the murder were paroled years ago, although Donald Sallows, who admitted to police that he'd beaten Mr. Spitzman, recently was sent to prison again. It was his second life sentence, this time for raping a Bryan girl several times.

Last year, the parole board held 3,313 regular parole hearings, in which a parole board member and a hearing officer are present to hear testimony from an inmate.

Of those, they recommended parole for 1,044 inmates, although many of those decisions were later reversed by the entire board.

Yesterday's hearing for Williams was an administrative review only. The board took no oral testimony and Williams was not present.

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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