Appeals court upholds Plymale murder case decision

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — An Ohio appeals court has upheld robbery and murder convictions against a Gallia County man.

According to papers filed June 3 with the Gallia County Clerk of Courts, the Court of Appeals of Ohio’s Fourth Appellate District upheld convictions of aggravated robbery and murder against Joseph Plymale, 29, formerly of Springfield Township, that were issued in early 2015 in the Gallia Court of Common Pleas.

John Sheets, 58, was originally found dead in his home on Wray Road in February 2014 after being shot in the back.

Plymale was convicted and sentenced in February 2015 to life in prison without parole for aggravated murder involved with Sheets’ death. Plymale sought to appeal the convictions based on what he and counsel felt were faulty grounds for a guilty verdict.

As part of Plymale’s appeal, he felt the testimony of one witness, Christopher Bowman, was “self-serving and unreliable,” according to appeal records. Bowman was convicted for complicity to theft and stealing stolen property and was sentenced to four years of probation in connection Sheets’ death. After Bowman pleaded guilty, he testified for the prosecution against Plymale. The appeals court felt the aggravated murder trial jury had correctly determined Plymale’s guilt because of testimony introduced by the state, surveillance video, DNA evidence and statements that corroborated Bowman’s testimony.

Plymale further contended that his trial counsel was ineffective at providing assistance because of failing to file a notice of alibi and failing to object to the state’s comments on post-arrest silence. The appeals court to did not agree with Plymale’s point. Documents state the appeals court did not find any record that Plymale’s counsel knew of a “potential defense in time to file a notice of alibi.”

Plymale also felt that the trial court did not sentence him rightly when sentenced to consecutive prison terms because the court did not find “statutorily required” findings before assigning him consecutive sentences. According to court papers, the appeals court did not find Plymale to have objected to the sentences at his sentencing and waived all but “plain error” which Plymale had not “established” with his complaints. Plymale also felt the trial court was not justified for imposing consecutive sentences supported by record. The appeals court, however, felt the record was full of evidence to support the trial court’s original findings. The appeals court overruled Plymale’s third series of complaints.

“We are pleased with the ruling that has come down from the Fourth District (appellate court) affirming every one of (Plymale’s) convictions,” said Gallia Prosecutor Jeff Adkins. “After the defendant filed his appeal, my office began vigorously defending the jury’s conviction which was rendered in February 2015. My office handles our current criminal cases and the appeals which stem from successful criminal prosecutions. We are glad that the appellate court has upheld the life sentence plus 20 years.

“This sentence will not bring back the victim, but it does add some finality to this case for the victim’s family,” Adkins added. “I personally thank the family for their cooperation during these last few years in our forceful pursuit of justice.”

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright