Homicides rare in Bazetta

BAZETTA – Township police blotters normally consist of petty theft at Walmart and expired registrations on vehicles stopped along Elm Road – not murders. In fact, in the past two decades, only a few incidents have even been linked to homicides in the area.

The death Saturday of 4-year-old Charles N. Patin was ruled a homicide by blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Scott Henry Walker, 33, is facing murder charges for punching the child in the stomach, leading to his death.

Investigators accused Walker of punching the son of his live-in girlfriend Friday evening. The family called emergency workers to the home at 2910 N. Park Extension at 3:15 a.m. Saturday because the boy wasn’t breathing.

The mother first claimed the child had ingested carpet cleaner the previous afternoon. A bruise was found on the boy’s stomach and later police arrested Walker, who said he ”didn’t mean to do it,” according to an affidavit in the case.

Bond was set at $500,000 on Tuesday, and Walker remains in jail pending a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Before this case, the most current incident dates back to 2008.

“We haven’t had a murder in at least 20 years,” Bazetta Detective Joe Sofchek said.

Sofchek has been working for the department 13 years – the last seven as detective. He said in that time, the department has discovered two sets of human remains.

One set was discovered in June 2008 on the side of Geauga-Portland Easterly Road by a couple walking their dogs. Using dental records, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington identified the remains as those of Dozie Blackmon, 37, of Leavittsburg. He’d been shot in the head. Police at the time said they were “reasonably certain” the shooting didn’t occur in Bazetta, but the investigation continues.

Blackmon’s family had reported him missing. He had been on parole after serving time in prison on charges of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery with a firearm specification, felonious assault and possession of crack cocaine, according to court records.

The second set of remains – found three-quarters of a mile from Blackmon’s – tell a similar story.

“Those we think were just dropped off in our area,” Sofchek said.

The remains of a black man were found in a swampy area of Mosquito Lake State Park in 2006 and have yet to be identified.

The latest break in the cold case was a digital reconstruction of the individual by the FBI’s Special Projects Unit Forensic Artists in 2010. While the rendering was highly detailed, an identity has yet to surface.

A 1991 murder was also located near Mosquito lake – this time on the southeast shoreline. In June of that year, high school principal Larry Graber, 54, had been found severely beaten and left for dead. He died from wounds to his head and upper body the day after being discovered by a park ranger.

John Woodrow Smith, then 20, of Warren, turned himself in days later admitting to beating Graber with a tree branch the thickness of a baseball bat. He told authorities he beat Graber to thwart off a sexual advance. A polygraph test later showed that the two men had only exchanged words before the beating. Earlier in the evening they were seen together in a bar in Warren.

Smith was subsequently sentenced to 15-years-to-life in prison. He was turned down for parole in 2005 and again in 2012. He will not be up for parole again until 2017.