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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2005

Police work questioned in murder inquiry

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Though a jury found Charles Miller II guilty last week of trying to asphyxiate his wife and child, his trial was peppered with strong criticism of how Wood County sheriff's deputies handled the investigation.

Why, defense attorney C. Drew Griffith asked, didn't deputies call a detective to the scene immediately? Why was no attempt made to lift fingerprints from key pieces of evidence? Why did investigators rely on photos taken of the scene by management of Troy Villa mobile home park, where the incident occurred?

Even Special Prosecutor Gary Bishop acknowledged "shortcomings" with the sheriff's investigation, but he assured the jury the missteps were not crucial to proving Miller connected a dryer hose from his van's exhaust pipe to the underside of the mobile home where his wife and 5-year-old son were sleeping.

The jury apparently agreed, finding Miller guilty Friday of two counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Though Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn did not take office until a month after the Miller incident, he said yesterday he's not ignoring what was said at the trial.

"This will be a learning opportunity for us, and I will review this with my staff to see what we might change to make sure this will not happen in the future," he said.

Describing himself as a "very hands-on sheriff," he said his staff knows they are to call him at any hour if there is a significant event, such as a murder or other unnatural death or any time the special response team is dispatched. He has and will respond to all such events, he said. In his absence, his chief deputy is on call.

"My phone does ring quite a bit in the middle of the night, but that's OK," he said. "I encourage them to do that."

Wood County Prosecutor Ray Fischer said he might talk to the sheriff about protocol at crime scenes, although he did not recall the Miller investigation being problematic when the incident occurred last November.

He said the detectives at the sheriff's office, in general, do a very good job. "That's something I can bring up with the current sheriff," Mr. Fischer said. "We can always work to improve. I try to do that every day myself."

He said the O.J. Simpson case was a good example of a defense that aimed its case at problems with the investigation.

Television crime shows may cause people to expect the kind of physical evidence that doesn't always exist at a crime scene.

"The typical jury who watches TV is being more influenced by what they see on TV," he said. "You don't get DNA in between commercials."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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