Parole board to decide on convicted murder from ’70s case

WARREN — A man described as a shotgun-toting bounty hunter when he was tried more than four decades ago for murder in Trumbull County will appear in May before an Ohio Parole Board after his release from a California prison, records show.

John Tidwell, 70, pleaded guilty to murder in 1980 after a hung jury failed to reach a verdict in 1978 following an eight-week trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Tidwell was convicted of the 1973 murders of retired industrialist C. Walter Holmquist and his wife, Dorothy, of Bazetta.

Earlier in 1978, Tidwell was sentenced to life in prison in Orange County, Calif., for the execution-style murder of a teenager.

He served 42 years in prison in California, before being booked earlier in February into the Trumbull County Jail. He was then transferred to the Lorrain Correctional Institution, according to prison records.

The Trumbull County court approved a 1980 plea deal that gave Tidwell a prison term of 15 years to life, to be served with the sentence handed down in California.

The deal specifies that the Ohio Adult Parole will determine if Tidwell should be released in Ohio, according to documents provided by the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Trumbull County prosecutor at the time, J. Walter Dragelevich, promised the office would not try to influence the parole board on whether Tidwell should be released, according to the plea deal.

The first, lengthy trial was highly publicized, according to Tribune Chronicle archives. His defense was based on his own testimony, refuting his alleged accomplice’s side of the story.

The Holmquists were killed during a robbery at their home.

The accomplice, David Nicopolis, was granted immunity for his testimony, and he claimed Tidwell fired the custom-made shotgun that killed the couple.

While in prison in California, Tidwell reportedly worked as a clerk in the gym, studied gemology, studied sign language and married a nurse who worked in a psychiatric hospital — with whom he had conjugal visits, according to a 1993 Tribune Chronicle article.

Tidwell attempted to appeal his California conviction, at one point claiming a different prisoner confessed to the teenager’s death before dying himself.

The parole board in California denied his release in 1990 because he engaged in “an escalating pattern of criminal conduct and violence” and failed to adjust to institutional behavior, according to a 1990 article quoting the board’s ruling.