Dayle Hindman, star of Court TV's “Body of Evidence,” was accompanied by a film crew to cover the investigation into the death of Evelyn Howard, 72, of Eden Park, whose body was found several weeks after she was reported missing, which was the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 1997.
Hindman arrived in Portsmouth Monday, where she met with law enforcement officers involved in the original investigation, including former Scioto County Sheriff's deputy Hughie L. Blair, now a security officer with Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority.
“That was the first year we came in (the administration of Sheriff Marty Donini) and I was chief deputy, and our detectives were just so swamped. I kept in close contact with the family,” Blair said. “Then over the years, everything started coming to me, and I kind of took over the case.”
The crew shot footage at several locations, including Howard's home, the site on Richard Road north of Minford, where a hunter discovered a bloody mattress, and a spot just over the edge of Glade Road, where the body eventually was located some three weeks after Howard had been reported missing.
Hindman is well-known for using the science of profiling to aid in the investigations of homicides, especially cold cases.
After Hindman filmed two final scenes on Wednesday morning, she left Portsmouth, and her crew stayed behind to re-enact with law enforcement the steps taken to follow up tips and discoveries that eventually led to the conviction of Daniel Payton in her death in 2005.
Several current members of the Scioto County Sheriff's Office worked to recreate the scene in the area, just off White Gravel Road, also in Minford, Wednesday afternoon.
Producers and deputies braved a steady rain as they repeatedly shot the scene, cordoned off by yellow “crime scene” tape.
During a break in the shooting, Blair talked about the investigation.
“We first flew helicopters over the area and sent teletypes out, and we treated it like a missing persons case,” he said. “We did find evidence at the house with some blood and had it processed, and then we found out it was her blood about the time we found the body.”
Blair said the hunter found the blood-stained mattress, bringing investigators to search the area on a rainy weekend.
“It was like a late afternoon on a Saturday, and it got cold and dark, and the dog (K-9 unit) couldn't pick up anything, so then we quit and came back out Sunday, and then did a search,” he said. “I went up that way (pointing toward a curve on Glade Road) and happened to look over the bank, and that's when I saw something wrapped up, and it was a body. I slid down the hill and then I saw a foot.”
It took six years and the arrest of Payton on an unrelated charge before the crime was solved.
Payton had been arrested in a rape case, and Blair said officers became suspicious of him when they realized he was a neighbor of Howard.
“He had committed a murder in Fayette County between those times (the murder of Howard and his arrest),” Blair said.
He said the cause of death was found during an examination of the body.
“We sent the body to Cincinnati for an autopsy, and then they gave us the report that she had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted,” Blair said. “They did obtain DNA from her and we just started bringing in people to interview.”
He credits the help he received from Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini in matching DNA.
“He (Donini) was real supportive, he didn't make any qualms about the money or anything else needed in the investigation,” Blair said. “At that time, we didn't have a lab that did DNA, and we had to pay like $1,200 every time we had a DNA done, and we probably spent ten- to twenty-thousand dollars on DNA trying to find a suspect.”
The DNA match finally came during the interrogation of Payton, who now is in the Ohio prison system.
Local law enforcement officials and other citizens were pressed into service to portray other people involved in the case for the purpose of shooting the re-enactment of the scenes where the mattress and the body were found.
One of the stars featured was the Portsmouth Police K-9 unit, handled by officer Lee Bower, portraying the dog from the sheriff's office in 2003.
Capt. David Hall, of the Scioto County Sheriff's Office, repeatedly drove his vehicle over a clearing to the yellow tape as cameras rolled. Sheriff's detective Denver Triggs also played a prominent roll in the re-enactment. Blair said it was Hall who originally passed the case to him.
Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn said Payton entered a guilty plea to the murder in October 2005, and was sentenced to 20 years to life, as well as nine years for the rape charge to run consecutively with a previous rape charge.
“He will come up for parole in 2092,” Kuhn said.
Blair said he had been contacted by an independent production company that produced programming for Court TV in April. He said the company had seen a Portsmouth Daily Times story about the crime and contacted him about a missing persons show on the story, but abandoned the idea when they found out authorities had solved the case as a murder.
Blair said the company forwarded the story on to another production unit from “Body of Evidence,” and they followed up, leading to this week's work.
He said the production crew will remain in the area until Friday, and the airing of the episode should take place in February unless the episode is bumped by a major event, delaying the airing to a later time.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.