MONROE -- There's never a first day of spring -- no matter how beautiful the weather is -- that Carol Schlagheck of Monroe doesn't think of death. It's been 40 years since her grandfather Earl Ludlow was kidnapped from a beer store near the Ohio-Michigan line where he worked in March, 1972.
Mr. Ludlow, who didn't leave any traces of resistance, was taken from the store and driven to Lavoy Road, where he was shot three times in the side of the head before being rolled into a ditch.
"I was 14 at the time," Ms. Schlagheck said. "I have a pretty good memory of all of this … if you mention this case to anyone who lived in Toledo 40 years ago, they remember it."
Although Monroe County authorities charged Lawrence Lamont with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Mr. Ludlow, that charge later was dismissed. But Lamont, formerly of Temperance, and James Patterson of Lima, Ohio, were given two federal life sentences in Ohio for kidnapping related to the similar 1972 deaths of Frank Welzbacher, 36, of Sylvania Township and Joseph Satcher, 22, of Toledo.
Now, Ms. Schlagheck, along with other family members of the victims and Lamont's children, are fighting to keep Lamont, 67, behind bars. He is to go before the Ohio parole board July 18 -- with a chance for release.
"I had always assumed that he had been prosecuted for murder -- I didn't know he had just been put in jail for kidnapping. I want to see him stay in jail," said Marcie Satcher Mintz, Mr. Satcher's widow, who now lives in Shorewood, Ill.
Patterson was stabbed to death in prison in July, 1977. Lamont served a total of 40 years on the two federal kidnapping convictions before he was released from Indiana's Terre Haute federal prison to Ohio custody in April.
He is in Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, where he is kept under a medium level of security.
Ohio is holding Lamont on a forgery conviction in a case that Lucas County initially charged him with in 1969; Lamont never finished serving the sentence.
In February, 1972, at age 27, Lamont escaped from Marion Correctional Institution, where he was being held on the forgery charge, with Patterson, 40, whom he had met in jail and who had been convicted of burglary.
Mr. Satcher was abducted March 22, 1972, while working at the Kayo Service Station on Tremainsville Road. Mr. Welzbacher was abducted April 6, 1972, during an armed robbery of the Monroe Beer Store on Monroe Street.
Both victims were found shot dead in Monroe County, Michigan.
Patterson and Lamont were back on police radar after they were arrested in a bar brawl in Lima in April, 1972. Authorities then charged the pair with kidnapping Mr. Welzbacher and Mr. Satcher.
Lamont was given two consecutive life sentences for kidnapping in June, 1972.
In July, 1972, Lucas County Prosecutor Harry Friberg told The Blade that in view of consecutive life sentences given to Lamont and Patterson for kidnapping, plus the lengthy sentences still facing them on prior state charges, "it seems too expensive to prosecute them," referring to prosecuting on murder charges.
And although Monroe County authorities charged Lamont with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Mr. Ludlow, the charge was dismissed.
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"Because he received two consecutive life sentences, we were pretty well assured that he would never see the light of day," said James Rostash, a former Monroe County prosecutor, of the dismissed charge. "Everybody pretty much agreed that there was nothing to be gained by further prosecution."
Sentence reform laws
Joseph Costello, Jr., the Monroe County chief assistant prosecutor who is now handling the case, said he was told by a member of the U.S. Attorney's Office that, according to a sentence reform act at the federal level, what was meant by a life sentence in the years before 1987 was somewhere between 20 and 25 years behind bars.
Mr. Costello said that Monroe County's murder charge in 1972 was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the county can bring the charge against Lamont again.
"We're considering charges of murder against him regardless of whether he is released on parole," he said. "We're keeping an eye on the Ohio proceedings and moving parallel and independent of those."
Lamont declined a request by The Blade for an interview.
Mike Davis, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said Lamont is able to go before the parole board because he has served two-thirds of the minimum sentence for his 1969 forgery conviction, which is two years. The maximum sentence he could serve is 40 years.
The next time that Lamont could come up for parole would be up to the parole board's discretion, Mr. Davis said.
According to the Ohio Parole Board Handbook, the board may grant parole "if in its judgment there is reasonable ground to believe that … paroling the prisoner would further the interests of justice and be consistent with the welfare and security of society."
Mr. Davis also said that community sentiment plays a role in the board's decision.
Tom Ross, an investigator with the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, said he was aware that Lamont's parole hearing was approaching this month and that he helped the Schlagheck family write letters to the Ohio parole board.
Last Wednesday, after writing several letters to express opposition to Lamont's release, Ms. Schlagheck and her brother, John, of Bowling Green, went before the Ohio parole board to plead their case.
Ms. Schlagheck has also started a Change.org petition arguing that the parole board should not grant Lamont parole. The petition has garnered 202 signatures thus far.
"I don't really want to think about that," John Schlagheck said of the possibility that Lamont could be given parole. "It's the worst thing that could happen. It's the worst nightmare come true. I just want the state of Ohio to do something."
For her part, Ms. Schlagheck has been impressed by the number of Michigan authorities and members of Lamont's family who have written letters to the parole board to oppose Lamont's release.
While she said her heavy involvement in opposing Lamont's release gives her pause should he ever be released, she felt the need to take a stand, regardless of safety concerns.
"I know there's risk, but somebody has to stand up," Ms. Schlagheck said. "We were promised that he would never come back to Toledo, that he would not live in this community where he's caused all this pain."
In the 40 years that have passed since her husband's murder, Ms. Mintz's life has been forever altered. Her relationship with her fifth husband recently ended.
"I've never quite been the same after the first one -- that was the love of my life," she said. "I was never able to let anybody get that close again."
Contact Madeline Buxton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.