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Published: Tuesday, 10/3/2006

Judge asked to alter his ruling on sex offender because of error


BOWLING GREEN - Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey has been asked to amend his ruling in the sexual-offender classification of convicted murderer John Umbel because of an error in the decision he wrote last week.

In declaring Umbel a sexual predator, Judge Kelsey wrote that Umbel had chopped into pieces the body of his victim, 3-year-old Alex Leimgruber, after Umbel raped and murdered him in 1992.

The victim's body was not cut up, according to John Helm, an investigator with the Wood County prosecutor's office who was involved in the murder investigation. Mr. Helm testified during Umbel's Aug. 28 sexual offender classification hearing.

Paul Dobson, an assistant Wood County prosecutor, said he filed a motion yesterday asking that the decision be corrected because the prosecutor's office wants to make sure the court record is accurate. He said he would not want Umbel's defense attorney to appeal the ruling based on a factual error.

"The court indicated it as one of the factors it looked at in making the determination," Mr. Dobson said, adding that he was confident the crime and related factors were sufficient to justify the sexual predator classification.

Judge Kelsey could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a staff member in his office said the judge planned to review the record and correct his decision if it was wrong.

Brooke Leimgruber, the victim's mother, was at the sex-offender hearing and had hoped Umbel would be deemed a sexual predator, but she said yesterday that she and other family members were disturbed when they read the reference to the body being chopped up. She said she doesn't understand how a judge could get the facts of the case wrong after hearing them recounted in court.

"It's just tearing everybody up," she said. "How can you make that kind of mistake?"

Judge Kelsey was not on the bench when Umbel's case went to trial in 1993. A three-judge panel found Umbel, now 49, guilty of aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, and felonious sexual penetration. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences and an additional 10 to 25-year prison sentence.

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