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The Short List
A compilation of the best local crime stories from the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.
An Innocent Man
The conventional wisdom had Michael Wehrung guilty of murder. That proved not to be so wise after all.
On a Friday night in December, in a big lodge-like house along the Whitewater River near the Ohio-Indiana border, there’s a celebration going on. Men and women holding Budweisers and Cokes and babies pack the high-ceilinged common room, spilling out onto the deck outside and huddling against the chill around a campfire in the yard.
Death and the Maid
He was rich, brilliant, and as solitary as a hermit. Then Walter Sartory opened his door to a cleaning lady and her son. First he lost his moorings. Then he lost his life.
This sordid, grisly tale of death and depravity begins, paradoxically enough, with a seemingly innocent act of human kindness. Last February, a day or two after a winter storm descended on the Ohio River Valley, unleashing a crippling amount of snow and ice, a 47-year-old housecleaner named Willa Blanc and her son, Louis Wilkinson, ventured out to shovel the driveway and sidewalk of a house in the kid-friendly, cookie-cutter subdivision of Liberty Crossing in Hebron, Kentucky. The tiny beige one-story house with dark green shutters belonged to a 73-year-old retiree named Walter Sartory—a man Blanc had met just once, shortly after he had relocated from Tennessee the previous March. The fact that Blanc didn’t really know Sartory wasn’t unusual. Hardly anyone did. Neighbors claim that the old man wouldn’t even bother to wave back when they saw him, always coming and going in his silver Toyota Prius.
The River Lady
For two and a half years she's been waiting for someone to give her a name. And she's not alone.
She dressed carefully,
as if looking nice still mattered to her on that autumn day two and a half years ago.
Before Columbine, there was Clay Shrout. In the spring of 1994, the Ryle High School junior murdered his family and then held his math class at gunpoint. But time hasn't erased the scars.
Each May, when the weather turns warm and prom season is in full swing, there are alumni of Ryle High School who think back to that terrible day.
An Abandoned and Malignant Heart
The sad life of Emily Ball, and the death of Travis White.
Malice is a state of mind. It is intent to harm. It is also reckless indifference for life. Malice is hatred. It is also heartlessness.
Randy Cope loved Sarah Jackson. That’s why he wanted her dead.
Who Wants to Marry This Millionaire?
Three hours into a recitation about her doomed eight-year marriage, Norma Schuholz reaches behind her saffron sofa pillow and pulls out a gun. It sags inside a plastic freezer bag. She explains that she couldn’t be sure I was the reporter I claimed to be. She was prepared to defend herself.
Hearts of Darkness: The Brief, Unhappy Marriage of Darryl and Dante Sutorius
He thought she would light up the waning years of his life, but instead she filled them with terror. Then she cut them short.
It could have been a scene from
, except for the gray hair and lined faces that placed the men beyond the half-century mark. Dr. Darryl Sutorius, a cardiac and thoracic surgeon, was fixing dinner for friends, a couple who’d seen him through a long, hard divorce. Afterward they lingered over wine and conversation on that autumn evening, snapping pictures to remember the night.
Praying for Keeps
He transformed a sleepy church into Northern Kentucky’s second-largest Baptist congregation. But while he was serving the Lord, he was also stealing from his flock. Now the Reverend Larry Davis is headed to prison, leaving behind betrayed followers, millions of dollars in debt, and a house divided.
Darryl Heitner and his wife, Jenifer, first happened upon First Baptist Church in Cold Spring, Kentucky, in December 1992. Newly married, the Neltners had been searching for a permanent place to worship for six months and had visited several different churches around the region. At First Baptist, the selling points were clear: For one, they liked the people they met, a mix of new and longtime members who cared deeply about their church and where it was headed. Then there was the pastor, Reverend Larry Davis, a charismatic preacher whose energy and future plans for the church knew no bounds. In just seven years, Davis had helped the congregation double its size to about 600 members, and when the Neltners arrived, First Baptist was just weeks away from moving to a 650-seat sanctuary the church had built a mile south on U.S. Route 27. After attending services for four months, the couple decided to become members. “It just seemed like a good place,” recalls Neltner.
The Angel of Death Asks for Mercy
When Donald Harvey first confessed to murdering a patient at Drake Hospital in the spring of 1987, local authorities didn’t know they had a serial killer on their hands. Neither did his lawyer.
ON APRIL 6, 1987, CINCINNATI POLICE
charged Donald Harvey, a 35-year-old orderly at Daniel Drake Memorial Hospital, with the murder of John Powell. Powell was a patient in the Hamilton County–owned convalescent hospital, a 44-year-old who had sustained severe brain injuries in a motorcycle accident the preceding summer. Because of his condition, his death was not unexpected. But during a routine autopsy, forensic pathologist Dr. Lee D. Lehman caught a whiff—literally—of cyanide. Questioned by police, Harvey confessed to poisoning Powell. When attorney William Whalen was appointed as Harvey’s public defender, the press was already buzzing about the idea of a “mercy killing:’ But soon Whalen learned the truth: He was representing a serial killer of stunning scope. In this chapter of
Defending Donald Harvey,
co-authored by Whalen and Bruce Martin, the attorney details the role he played in the television news investigation that brought the crimes to light, and the risky strategy he pursued to keep his diabolical client from getting the death penalty.
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