GALLIPOLIS — A Middleport resident and the last suspect in the Rothgeb death investigation pleaded guilty to six felony charges in mid-December, among which involved escape charges, abuse of a corpse and more, for a total of 12 years in a state facility.
Lacey Young, 30, was one of three individuals indicted based upon an investigation into the death of Terry “Shag” Rothgeb, then 55, of Gallipolis last year by the Gallia Sheriff’s Office. Ralph Young, 39, and Leeza Bartels, 22, both of Bidwell, were taken into custody by detectives with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Gallipolis Police Department after receiving an anonymous tip from the public as to their whereabouts in April of last year.
Lacey was taken into custody in August 2017 in Columbus as part of the investigation into the death of Rothgeb after months of searching with the assistance of the United States Marshals Service.
Deputies discovered the body of Rothgeb in Gallia County’s Raccoon Township February 12, 2017 at 2 a.m. after having received a missing person report the same day. According to information released by Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren and Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin Tuesday, investigators believed Rothgeb did not die where he was found and that his body was moved. Law enforcement believes both Youngs and Bartels drove a van to the intersection of Glassburn and Woodsmill Road in northeast Raccoon Township and left it there with Rothgeb’s remains. Gallia Sheriff’s Office investigators were able to develop suspects and through them learned the whereabouts of the body. Investigators returned to where they believe Rothgeb originally died at a residence in the Rodney area, according to previous conversations with Champlin.
An autopsy report by the Montgomery County Coroner reads, “It is my opinion that the cause of death of Terry R. Rothgeb is multiple drug intoxication (fentanyl, heroine, cocaine).”
As part of court proceedings, Ralph reportedly said he and his colleagues attempted to revive Rothgeb with Narcan, an opioid overdose revival drug, and CPR on the deceased’s form. Ralph was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in June while Bartles was sentenced to two years in July last year. Both were convicted of gross abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony, and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.
“I think that this case, along with the case we dealt with last year (the Richard Hurt case) show the absolute need for the legislature to do something (with abuse of a corpse violation penalties),” said Holdren. “It’s outrageous that this can happen to a body and a tampering with evidence charge is a higher penalty (than an abuse of corpse charge).”
The max sentence in Ohio one could receive for abusing a corpse is one year in a state facility. Tampering with evidence charge sentences can result in a max of three years.
“I think that it would outrage the community’s reasonable sensibilities in that would the community deem it reasonable for you to pass away and for folks to move your body to never be found again,” said Holdren. “Every day I think a jury convicts on that.”
“Lacey was found in Columbus, Ohio, and taken to a jail facility,” said Holdren. “She saw a judge at which time the judge gave her an OR bond (own recognizance) with the order that she come to court here in Gallia County. She did not do that. So, the US Marshals Service went after her a second time.”
Holdren said his office was in contact with the Franklin Prosecutor’s Office in Columbus and stressed Lacey should not get an OR bond. The explanation Holdren said he received was that because Lacey had low tier felonies, it was likely she would get an OR bond as common practice. Because Lacey did not show to court the first time and was retrieved a second time, she was held on a cash bond.
“Once we had her back here, we had a couple different escape attempts,” said Holdren.
Holdren said Lacey would plead guilty to escape charges and complicity to assault on a peace officer for events happening in the Gallia Jail in September of last year, along with her abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence charges. In total, Lacey faced a fifth-degree felony abuse of corpse sentence of one year, one tampering with evidence third-degree felony sentence of three years, a third-degree felony of escape with a three year sentence, another felony escape with a three year sentence and two fourth-degree felony charges of complicity to assault on a peace officer for two years. At total, she was sentenced to 12 years in a state facility.
“As Terry’s mother, my grief is relived every day in mourning the loss of my son,” said Libby Rothgeb as she read a written statement Tuesday. “I am very thankful for our local law enforcement that has worked so diligently trying to achieve justice in the case of my son’s death and continue their strong vigilance of ridding our county of drugs. I hope that other families will not suffer the pain and anguish that I have had to endure at the mercy of drug dealers’ greed for their gain with no regard to lives that are destroyed involving drugs. I pray God will guide our sheriff and prosecutor and their staff as they work toward making Gallia County a safer place to live and raise a family.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342 or at the Gallipolis Daily Tribune Facebook page.