The theater curtains opened Tuesday morning, in a courtroom in Trumbull County, Ohio, on another scene in the slowly unfolding tragedy of Ronald Stahlman.
Stahlman told Judge Andrew Logan that he is an innocent man. Logan replied that Stahlman’s bail would be set at $2 million and scheduled another hearing for February 17th. Then, in less than five minutes, Stahlman was led away, back into the belly of the beast, and the curtains once more closed.
Stahlman is being prosecuted by a district attorney named Christopher D. Becker. Less than two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Ohio wrote in an as yet unpublished slip opinion that, “Clear and convincing evidence supports that… Becker committed …misconduct” in another murder case.
Stahlman, meanwhile, is being represented by a relatively inexperienced public defender and general practice lawyer named Tracy Ann Laslo.
Louis Brandeis might cry.
Stahlman, 56, is accused of the April, 1979 murder of Bernard Williamson in Warren, Ohio. Williamson was found dead in the middle of the intersection of Main Avenue and Fulton Street in Warren at 3:30 in the morning.
Stahlman, who reportedly was then riding with the American Outlaws Association, was somehow connected to the crime. Evidence linking Stahlman to the crime has never been revealed. No motive for the murder has ever been publically stated. After a murder warrant was issued for his arrest Stahlman disappeared.
The New Life
Stahlman wound up in Phoenix and started a new life. He changed his name to James O’Neil, settled in suburban Payson, got married and had two children.
Police reopened the case file in 2005 when the town assigned a detective named Brian Holmes to work cold cases. The sexiest of all cold cases are unsolved murders and Holmes convinced a U.S. Marshall with Warren ties, named Bill Bolden, to work the case with him. Still another police force, this one called the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, was enlisted to search for Stahlman.
Holmes found a snitch who revealed that Stahlman had moved to Phoenix to start over. Four years later the cops finally got Stahlman’s address.
Hooray For The Police
Everyone seems to have made an example out of Stahlman because they could.
After Stahlman’s apprehension, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins congratulated the Warren Police Department and the Marshals Service. Warren Police Chief John Mandopoulos lauded the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force.
And, U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott warned that, “Violent fugitives, such as this, will continue to be sought and arrested no matter where they attempt to hide.” The Marshall seemed not to know or care that Stahlman hadn’t done anything violent for at least 29 years.
And now, Stahlman and his family may be starting to wonder if, by some miracle, he might get a fair trial. He faces 15 years to life if he is convicted.