GALLIPOLIS — Three Ohio Valley residents were recently indicted by the Gallia County Grand Jury for the alleged crimes of gross abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony, and the third-degree felony of tampering with evidence in connection with an investigation into the death of a Gallipolis man.
Leeza Bartles, 22, of Bidwell, Ralph Young Jr., 38, of Bidwell and Lacey Young, 29, of Middleport, were all charged with gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence crimes in connection with the discovery of the remains of Terry Rothgeb, 55, of Gallipolis.
Deputies discovered the body of Rothgeb in Gallia County’s Springfield Township Feb. 12 at 2 a.m. after having received a missing person report the same day.
“The individuals in this case have been indicted,” said Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin. “They have not been taken into custody yet. We are looking for information from anybody that would like to share information with us about their whereabouts.”
Investigators believe Rothgeb did not die where he was found in Springfield Township and that his body was potentially moved.
“Mr. Rothgeb was discovered after he was reported by his family as missing,” said Champlin. “We conducted a lengthy investigation into his whereabouts. Through the course of that investigation, we were able to develop some suspects. Through interviewing those suspects, one of those suspects provided us with information in regards to the whereabouts of the body.”
Law enforcement officials would come upon Rothgeb’s form and currently believe his death to be due to drug overdose. Investigators returned to where they believe Rothgeb originally died at a residence in the Rodney area, according to Champlin.
“At the time the body was discovered and the investigation was conducted, the scene had been cleaned and all the evidence from the scene had been removed, hence the tampering with evidence charges,” said Champlin. “The tampering with evidence charge in this case is based on the crime scene. No tampering with the actual body is believed to have happened. The abuse of the corpse charge is based on (the belief) the body was removed from its original surroundings where the death occurred, basically (hampering) the office from conducting an investigation on the death.”
Law enforcement believes three days passed before Rothgeb’s remains were discovered.
“In accordance with our investigation thus far, there is no reason to believe any type of foul play occurred other than the improper handling of the overdose and death,” said Champlin.
The Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force also assisted in the investigation. Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren will represent the state in the case’s prosecution.
Tips can be left with the Gallia Sheriff’s Office at 740-446-6555.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.