EATON —Last week, a Preble County jury convicted Lewisburg resident Gabriel Schaaf, 58, in the December 2016 bludgeoning death of his 29-year-old son Jonothan Schaaf.
According to Prosecutor Martin Votel, Schaaf was found guilty on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Schaff was on trial for the aggravated murder of his son, Jonathan.
On the evening of Dec. 27, 2016, Gabriel Schaaf placed a frantic 9-1-1 call from his home at 3994 Sonora Road, according to Votel. He reported “that he had just returned home from work to find his door ajar and the body of his son on the living room floor.”
Gabriel Schaaf told the Preble County Sheriff’s Office two “guys from Eldorado” had threatened his son several weeks before, and that the victim had also received text message threats from an unknown female, Votel noted.
“The Preble County Sheriff’s Office pursued these leads with no breaks in the investigation,” Votel reported.
On June 8, 2017, detectives re-interviewed Schaaf and confronted him with inconsistencies in his statements and incongruities between his statements and the physical evidence in the case, Votel said.
“The defendant finally admitting to killing Jonathan with a large wooden ‘stick’ and a hatchet, but suggested he acted in self-defense. The defendant admitted that the 9-1-1 call had been a lie – an attempt to point the finger of suspicion at an unknown intruder,” Votel explained in a press release.
The State of Ohio was represented by Prosecuting Attorney Votel and Schaaf by defense attorney Kirsten Knight. Judge David N. Abruzzo presided over the trial.
“The state presented the testimony of the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Jonathan Schaaf. The pathologist confirmed that the victim had been hit in the head several times with ‘great force’, shattering his skull and causing a severe brain bleed. After this, the back of the victim’s neck sustained 5 ‘chopping’ injuries, the most significant of which cut the spinal column in half, nearly decapitating the victim,” Votel said in the press release.
“In the state’s estimation, the defendant’s claim of self-defense was defeated by this physical evidence, and by several recorded phone calls placed by the defendant at the Preble County jail after his arrest,” Votel said. “In the phone calls, the defendant told family and friends that the victim had inflicted the injuries upon himself.”
“This was a barbaric crime employing multiple weapons and traumatic force,” Votel said. “While the motive for the killing remains unknown, it is beyond dispute that this defendant wanted his son dead and that he acted swiftly and with specific intent to end his life.”
Sentencing in the case is set for March 13, at 1 p.m., in Preble County Common Pleas Court.
Schaaf was convicted of aggravated murder, an unclassified felony carrying four possible statutory sentences: 20-years-to-life, 25-years-to-life, 30-years-to-life, and life without the possibility of parole, according to Votel. His conviction for murder will merge with the aggravated murder conviction, meaning he will not be separately sentenced upon the murder count.
He was also convicted of one count of tampering with evidence is a felony of the third degree carrying a maximum possible sentence of three years.
“Without the tenacity of Dets. Miller and Blevins of the Preble County Sheriff’s Office, this case would remain unindicted,” Votel added. “The detectives exhausted every possible lead in the case over a six-month period, before resolving to press the defendant about the parts of his story which did not match the physical evidence and which did not make sense. Their sound interviewing technique and persistence are why Gabriel Schaaf will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.