GALLIPOLIS — A Bidwell man found guilty of murder by a jury this week will be sentenced on Tuesday in the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County.
Lee A. Hawkins, 48, is scheduled to stand before Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning to face sentencing in relation to charges of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and the gross abuse of a corpse after he was found guilty of those charges following a six-day murder trial.
Hawkins was arrested by law enforcement officials on March 13 after an investigation into the murder of Betsy Ball, 67, of Morgan Township.
Ball was reported missing from her Wilder Road home during the early morning hours of March 1, and, following a search by local emergency responders, her remains were discovered later that day on a farm located on Piper Road near the Village of Vinton in northern Gallia County.
Ball’s body was found doused in gasoline with her right wrist severely cut. A large cut marred her abdomen. Investigators also later discovered that her face and torso had been run over by a vehicle — the tires of which were later identified as being mounted to a truck belonging to Hawkins.
Autopsy reports later indicated that the victim had expired as a result of both manual and ligature strangulation on the evening prior to the discovery of the body.
Additionally, a forensic scientist specializing in DNA at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) who examined the DNA of Hawkins and the victim at the crime scene, testified that he positively identified samples of Hawkins’ DNA taken from the body of the victim, as well as Hawkins’ DNA and the victim’s blood on a towel found near the body — evidence indicating that the victim had been raped by the defendant.
Crime scene investigators with BCI who arrived to investigate the incident reported during the trial that the murder occurred in the garage of the Ball residence where Ball’s body was loaded into the suspect vehicle and dumped at the nearby farm.
The victim’s husband, David Ball, testified during the trial that he had arrived for work on February 29 and later learned he had to work a double shift and would not return home until after 11 p.m. that night. Due to this, he reported that he had contacted Hawkins — a long-time farm hand who he had hired several years previously — and asked him to complete the chores around his residence that evening.
Investigators later contacted all the individuals who were aware of David Ball’s work schedule on February and all were accounted for except for the defendant.
Hawkins was arrested and his truck impounded for further investigation.
Following six days of testimony from witnesses presented by the state — the defense did not produce any witnesses during the trial — closing arguments were heard by the defense and the prosecution on Tuesday afternoon.
The jury received the case at approximately 4 p.m. and returned with their verdict at approximately 7 p.m.
Sentencing was initially scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday morning in the common pleas court, but was rescheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 16.