PREBLE COUNTY — The aggravated murder and tampering with evidence convictions of the Lewisburg man charged with the murder of his son in December 2016 were affirmed by the 12th District Court of Appeals last week.
Gabriel Schaaf had appealed these convictions, arguing “police had violated his Constitutional right to remain silent, had failed to properly advise him of his Miranda rights before questioning, and that the jury’s verdicts were not supported by sufficient evidence,” according to Prosecuting Attorney Martin Votel.
On Jan. 22, 2019, one year after a jury trial ended with his conviction, the Court of Appeals issued a written opinion affirming the trial court’s Constitutional rulings and finding the verdicts were supported by sufficient evidence.
The defendant’s convictions and sentence were affirmed in all respects, according to Votel.
On Dec. 27, 2016, Schaaf, of 3994 Sonora Road in Lewisburg, called the Preble County Sheriff’s Office and reported he had returned home from work to find the body of his son, Jonathan Schaaf, on the floor in the living room. “He reported that he had last seen his son alive that morning before leaving for work,” Votel said.
According to court records, an autopsy revealed “that the victim’s skull had been shattered and that he had been nearly decapitated by five massive blows to the back of the neck with a sharp object.”
Gabriel Schaaf claimed to have no knowledge of the crime.
Investigators, however, were immediately suspicious of Gabriel Schaaf’s claims.
”The condition of the victim’s body and the blood on the floor surrounding the body suggested that Jonathan Schaaf had been dead for at least 24 hours,” Votel said.
Gabriel Schaaf was interviewed multiple times in the ensuing months as investigators attempted to resolve inconsistencies in his story. In June 2018, he “finally confessed to killing Jonathan with an axe, but claimed he had acted in self-defense,” Votel reported.
The case proceeded to a jury trial on Jan. 22, 2018, with Prosecuting Attorney Martin P. Votel representing the State of Ohio and attorney Kirsten Knight representing the defendant, and former judge David N. Abruzzo presiding.
The jury rejected Gabriel Schaaf’s claim of self-defense and he was convicted of all charged crimes.
On March 13, 2018, the court sentenced him 25 years-to-life for the aggravated murder of his son.
“This appellate ruling brings to a close a criminal case which has been pending for well over two years in one form or another,” Votel said. “The State of Ohio compliments the Preble County Sheriff’s Office for their thorough investigation of this crime — the brutal murder of Jonathan Schaaf would not have been solved were it not for their persistence and tenacity. The state hopes that the appellate court’s affirmation of the defendant’s convictions and sentence in this case will help bring closure and peace to family of Jonathan Schaff.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.