Updated Wed, Oct 23, 2013 8:34 am
A Glouster man has been implicated in the death of his father after a body was found in a well under a porch at the men’s residence. As the case develops, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said the case could involve the death penalty.
Paul J. Roberts, 40, of 68 Locust St. in Glouster, was arrested Friday after police responded to his home to a report of a vandalism. Monday, law enforcement personnel found the body of Paul E. Roberts, 63, wrapped up inside the well. The identity of the deceased was confirmed Monday and an autopsy was performed that showed the preliminary cause of death being blunt force trauma.
Paul J. Roberts is being held in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail under a $100,000 bond. Two others have been arrested in connection with the incident but it is unclear what role, if any, they may have played in the death.
The investigation started when the Glouster Police Department went to the Robertses’ home on a report of vandalism. According to Blackburn, the water heater of the home was removed for scrap and water was pouring into the basement of the home. Neighbors reportedly told investigators that Paul E. Roberts had not been seen for at least two weeks. Law enforcement also discovered that a 2004 black Jeep Liberty belonging to the elder Roberts was missing.
At the time, Paul J. Roberts was facing sentencing on eight low-level felony theft charges, most of which included his father as the victim. Jail time was expected to be handed down to Roberts on Nov. 4. The sentencing was scheduled earlier but Roberts failed to appear for a pre-sentence investigation, according to Blackburn.
Saying it was obvious that no one planned on living in the home since water was pouring into the basement and stating that the facts of the case indicated something was amiss, Blackburn directed investigators to conduct search warrants on the property.
Paul J. Roberts was taken into custody on the vandalism charge.
Evidence was gathered and interviews were conducted over the weekend and the body of Paul E. Roberts was discovered on Monday.
Saturday, Rhonda Degarmore, wife of Paul J. Roberts, was arrested on a probation violation. Monday, her brother, Bob Degarmore was arrested. Blackburn said both Degarmores are currently charged with low-level felonies that are not directly involved with the death but that investigators are looking at them as accessories to the crime after the death took place. Blackburn alleged that Bob Degarmore used Paul E. Roberts’ credit card after Roberts went missing. Blackburn called Paul J. Roberts the “main culprit” in the case.
According to Blackburn, Paul J. Roberts has spoken to media from Columbus about the case. Blackburn claims that during that interview Roberts admitted to hitting his father in the head with a pipe and said he would accept the death penalty. The Messenger attempted to interview Roberts as well but he declined the opportunity.
Blackburn pointed out that there are two factors that could be met in this case that could determine if a death specification could be warranted. If Paul J. Roberts committed the crime and did so in an attempt to gain funds to facilitate a way to escape his sentencing appearance, the death penalty could be part of the charge. If Roberts committed the crime and did so purposely in the commission of an aggravated robbery, that too could warrant a death specification.
Blackburn said that given the facts of the case, there is still more information needed before a decision can be made on whether to pursue the possibility of adding the death specification.
In the meantime, Paul J. Roberts is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on the vandalism charge on Thursday and is still scheduled to be sentenced on the previous eight felony charges on Nov. 4. A grand jury could hear the case as soon as Monday.
In addition to the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office and Glouster Police Department, the Athens Fire Department, Athens Police Department, Ohio University Police Department and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation assisted with the investigation.