GALLIPOLIS — Two suspects have been arrested and are facing multiple felony charges following the death of a Gallia County man that was initially deemed as “suspicious,” while an additional four individuals are behind bars following an ongoing investigation into the homicide.
Joseph D. Plymale, 27, Bidwell, and Christopher W. Bowman, 34, Gallipolis, were arrested on Saturday following three days of intensive investigation by the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) and the Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force. The arrests follow the discovery of the body of John S. Sheets, 58, at his residence on Wray Road last Wednesday evening.
Plymale has been charged with murder, aggravated robbery, having weapons under disability, theft and theft of weapons, while Bowman is facing charges of complicity to commit aggravated robbery, complicity to commit theft and receiving stolen property.
Plymale’s bond has been set at $2 million, 10 percent, while Bowman is being held under at $500,000, 10 percent bond.
An investigation into this case began after deputies with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office were contacted to conduct a well-being check on Sheets on the evening of Feb. 5 after being informed that he had not been seen in two days and his truck was found abandoned on Dan Jones Road.
Sheets body was reportedly found in his home, and Gallia County Coroner Dr. Daniel Whiteley reportedly later determined that the victim in this case had been killed by a gunshot wound and that the manner of death was homicide.
According to complaints filed on Monday with the Gallipolis Municipal Court and signed by Sheriff Joe Browning, after being interviewed by investigators, Bowman stated that he had dropped off Plymale on the afternoon of Feb. 3 near the Sheets residence and then drove around for a while before being contacted by Plymale to pick him up.
Bowman reportedly met Plymale, who was driving the victim’s truck, on Dan Jones Road and assisted Plymale in loading stolen guns from Sheets’ truck into Bowman’s Jeep. Bowman also reportedly told investigators that he and the co-defendant had taken the guns to Plymale’s storage unit.
Ohio BCI Agents and task force agents later found Plymale in the possession of a pillow case and guns that were determined to have been stolen from the victim’s residence on Feb. 3 — the date that investigators believe that the victim was killed.
The complaints further state that Plymale has a prior felony record for possession of drugs and attempted burglary and has not been relieved of weapons disability.
Browning reported that, as of Monday afternoon, a total of 10 search warrants have been have been served and four additional individuals have been arrested as a result of the ongoing investigation into the homicide. These four arrests are not directly connected to the murder, but are the result of the subsequent investigation, according to Browning.
Browning stated that, while in the process of locating Bowman, who had reportedly been out of town working, officers trailed his vehicle to a camper on McCormick Road where it was suspected that a transaction for the purchase of heroin occurred. A search warrant was later obtained for the camper and a child was later removed from the residence with the assistance of children’s services due to living conditions, according to Browning.
Earl Hager, 55, and Nancy Kirk, 28, were arrested at the scene and have been charged with the possession of drugs.
Browning reported that the investigation into the trafficking of drugs in this case is ongoing and a third individual may be charged.
Two more arrests were made after officers, who were attempting to locate Plymale, observed him at a Springfield Township area apartment, according to Browning.
Plymale reportedly approached Cody Hockman, 28, Bidwell, and Michelle Coughenour, 40, Patriot, in the parking lot area next to the apartment and allegedly sold Hockman a rifle that is believed to have belonged to Sheets.
Hockman was later arrested on a felony warrant and is facing a charge of receiving stolen property, while Coughenour was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant.
Heroin was also reportedly found at the apartment and a possible child endangerment charge may be filed as a result of the search warrant that was served at the residence.
Browning further reported on Monday that the incidents surrounding Sheets’ death and the subsequent six arrests that have been made are a direct result of illicit drug trade.
“We feel like the whole situation is heroin-driven,” Browning said. “We found heroin at the apartment, heroin at the camper and we have information that the two suspects in this case were addicted to heroin.”
Browning further praised the work of the officers involved in the ongoing investigation in this case, while asking anyone who may have further information to contact the sheriff’s office via their tip-line at (740) 446-6555.