FREMONT — The former lead detective in the Heather Bogle murder case was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday for tampering with evidence during the investigation.
Sean O’Connell, 54, of Fremont pleaded guilty in July in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court to a single tampering charge.
The charge relates to a report O’Connell — who was a Sandusky County sheriff’s detective — sent to then Sandusky County Prosecutor Thomas Stierwalt in an attempt to charge three people in Ms. Bogle’s death. Other law enforcement officials determined the three had nothing to do with Ms. Bogle’s murder, and O’Connell’s report did not include a string of facts that cast doubt on evidence he claimed pointed to their culpability.
Ms. Bogle, 28, was found dead April 10, 2015, in her car's trunk at a Clyde apartment complex one day after she vanished after leaving work. Mr. O'Connell led the initial investigation into her killing, then resigned in September, 2016, before facing a disciplinary hearing about accusations he had shared confidential documents related to the case.
Daniel Myers, 49, of nearby Green Creek Township, was indicted in connection with Ms. Bogle's murder in June, 2017, and is scheduled for trial Oct. 22.
Keyona Bor was one of the falsely accused, and said in court she’s lost jobs and homes and faced death threats after being named by O’Connell as a person of interest in the case.
“I lost pretty much everything I had, and I’m still trying to get it back,” she said.
Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove questioned O’Connell about exculpatory evidence he omitted from his report: That a jailhouse snitch who named one of the falsely accused failed a polygraph, that none of the three’s DNA was found on Ms. Bogle, that there were no phone records that showed any relation to Ms. Bogle, and that a man looking for reward money used his girlfriend to fake a recorded confession by Ms. Bor.
O’Connell also failed to follow up tips by a Whirlpool co-worker of Ms. Bogle and Myers who said Myers was capable of the crime, and a tip that phone location data would point to Myers’ trailer.
Jennifer Bogle, Heather’s sister, said O’Connell had no intention on solving the case, ignored leads, and refused to do his job.
“Sean O’Connell is a disgrace to law enforcement everywhere,” she said, adding later, “He not only failed my sister, he failed all the citizens of Sandusky County.”
Throughout the hearing, O’Connell said his report wasn’t an attempt to deceive prosecutors, and that he would have turned over all evidence he had if the case was presented to a grand jury. He framed his actions as simply an attempt to get Mr. Stierwalt’s interest in the people he considered suspects, and that his mistaken focus on the falsely accused was done in good faith.
“I was truly following the leads and where they were taking me,” he said.
Dean Henry, an attorney who has worked as special prosecutor, said O’Connell had done quality work on the cases he has worked on.
“He always was honest and fair with me,” he said.
An incredulous Judge Cosgrove rejected O’Connell’s defenses, which she called minimization, and said she felt obligated to send a message to other officers who hide inconvenient evidence to bolster their investigation targets. And she made clear that O’Connell was not targeted for cooperating in the investigation into former Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer, who pleaded guilty to felony charges of theft in office and deception to obtain dangerous drugs, among others, and was sentenced in December to four years in prison.
“These are real issues here,” she said, adding that O’Connell hasn’t shown real remorse.
As part of the plea deal, six other tampering charges were dropped, as was a charge of misusing the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway system to seek information about the editor of the Sandusky Register.
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