November 16, 2012
PDT Staff Writer
The jury deliberated for a little over two hours Friday before returning a guilty verdict in each of 10 counts in the case of Thomas Steinhauer, 47, of Portsmouth, charged in the murder of Felipe Lopez, 24, of Camp Street, West Portsmouth.
Judge William T. Marshall read the verdicts and then sentenced Steinhauer to life without the possibility of parole, plus 29 years. That is the same sentence pronounced on the two previous defendants, Raymond “Jimmy” Linkous and David Gerald.
After the verdicts were announced, Steinhauer reacted, loudly objecting to the verdicts, and again saying Lopez had threatened to kill him.
“The nature of this case is just what you heard right there,” Scioto County Assistant Prosecutor Pat Apel said. “The insensitivity. The whole thing has been character assassination. All this business about dope pushing and so forth. This is the character we’re dealing with. That’s what this guy (Steinhauer) has done. A 47 year old dope dealer, who by his own mouth is the one delivering the dope, he and his two buddies are going to lay it on a 5 foot 4 inch, 135 pound, 24 year old who works. He’s (Lopez) got a job. The other two guys at least stood up like men. This is the worst of them. He’s the one who had the idea. He’s the one who had the dope.” He then asked for the maximum sentence.
“There is no evidence anywhere where anyone ever reported any acts of violence from Felipe Lopez,” Assistant Prosecutor Julie Hutchinson said. “Ever!”
Steinhauer’s attorney Rick Nash objected to Apel’s interjecting evidence from a previous trial, but Marshall reminded the court he had sat through the entire trial and had heard all of the evidence.
However, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Pat Apel said that according to Raymond “Jimmy” Linkous, one of the previous defendants, Steinhauer had planned to kill Lopez before the incident actually began.
Marshall immediately read the sentencing on the multiple counts of aggravated murder, murder, aggravated arson, arson, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
“I believe it was a just verdict,” Hutchinson said after the trial. “These people (Lopez’s family) have had to endure this three times, and this was probably the worst and most offensive description of the victim.”
Apel said a trial dealing with a brutal murder is never a good reflection on a community.
“It is a very ugly case that reflects poorly on our county,” Apel told the Times. “It’s the consequence of drug trafficking, and what these men did was reprehensible. They got what they deserve. Each of them pointed to the other two, and each of them admitted to participating in it, but tried to put the main blame on the other two, and there is no doubt in my mind that they had planned this and that they had planned the cover-up.”
Apel said he hopes Lopez’s family, which sat through three murder trials, will have some closure from the verdicts.
“His brother and his sister, who are all young, and are from Chicago, have been down here for each of the trials,” Apel said. “They’re good folks. They’re clean-cut, all of them work. They’re just hard-working people. They didn’t deserve this. They didn’t deserve the allegations made against him (Lopez) during the trial. The allegations were false, and hopefully they will be able to find some closure.”
The badly burned body of Lopez was found in a burned truck on Junior Furnace Road in Franklin Furnace, on March 7, 2012, and Steinhauer, Linkous and Gerald were all charged in Lopez’s death.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.