Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Blood Brothers: Gary and Thaddeus Lewingdon

Brick Wall

As suddenly as they started, the murders came to a halt. It was November 1978, and the killers had not struck in nearly six months. The questions of why the murders began and why they suddenly ended fueled speculation among law-enforcement officers trying to solve the crimes. Investigators had three primary theories to explain why there had not been a murder since the slaying of Jerry and Martha Martin:

  1. The assailant or assailants were convicted of another crime and were in a penitentiary somewhere.
  2. Investigators came very close to the murderers during the course of the investigation, and the killers decided to stop rather than risk being caught.
  3. There was a connecting link among all the victims and they were killed because of that link.

Reward poster (Richard Vann)
Reward poster (Richard Vann)

Many of the investigators involved in the case found it hard to believe that the killings were all random. Detectives even went so far as to investigate the remote possibility that the victims might have served on the same jury that had convicted someone. Nonetheless, there was no such connection. From there, they tried to determine if the victims frequented the same clubs, bars, banks, gas stations or churches. But again, no link could be found.

Investigators working on the case decided to seek help from the public and offered a $16,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons connected with the homicides.

"With an investigation like this, it is hard to know when you're close until you develop positive information on one outstanding suspect," Columbus Police Sgt. William Steckman told The Columbus Dispatch. "We desperately need any information that can connect anyone to the killings," he added.

Fairfield County Sheriff's car (David Lohr)
Fairfield County Sheriff's car (David Lohr)

Within days, the Columbus police department was inundated with tipsters calling in. Unemployment rates were high during the late 1970's, thus prompting mothers to report their sons; ex-wives to report their ex-husbands; and friendships to be forgotten — the reward money on everyone's mind. It took investigators nearly three weeks to check more than 250 leads, which had been offered by the public. However, in the end they were no closer to catching the killers.

"I think eventually they'll be solved, but when and how I don't know." Fairfield County Sheriff Dan Berry told a Columbus Dispatch reporter.

Since investigators were unable to establish a motive or any solid leads, many of the detectives were reassigned to more pressing investigations.


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