Suspect held in Sandusky man's murder

SANDUSKY The man police say murdered Sandusky resident Calvin Harper Jr. is in custody in Georgia.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The man police say murdered Sandusky resident Calvin Harper Jr. is in custody in Georgia.

Thomas J. Ricks, 23, of Austell, Ga., was arrested Tuesday after a routine traffic stop. He was taken to Cobb County jail on charges originating in Georgia. Sandusky police have additionally charged Ricks with aggravated murder.

Harper, 29, was found shot to death March 12 in his Parkview Boulevard home. Only vague details of the crime have been released, because police say the case is still under investigation.

The news of Ricks' arrest has brought some relief and closure to Harper's family.

"When they told me that, I just fell to my knees -- thanking the Lord," said Harper's mother, Queen Amison. "I do have a little closure today, I really do."

Amison said she is thankful police have stayed on the case.

"I know that they were doing their job, and I really, really appreciate it," she said.

Harper's sister, Chanel, also breathed a sigh of relief.

"I'm happy that they caught him," she said. "Maybe (Harper) can rest now."

Ricks was booked into jail at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday -- his birthday. A fugitive from justice charge from Ohio is in place for Ricks, revoking his bond, jail personnel said.

In addition, Cobb County police served Ricks with a warrant for failure to appear in court for a felony charge of terroristic threats and a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to children, stemming from an October 2007 arrest.

Ricks previously spent time in the Jetson Correctional Center for Youth in Baton Rouge, La., for another charge, Sandusky police Det. Sgt. John Orzech said.

The center deferred comment on Ricks' juvenile case to its attorney, who did not return a call. Staff at the East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court said information on Ricks' juvenile record would not be released without his approval.

Police are now awaiting a disposition on his most recent Georgia charges before beginning the extradition process. Ricks is slated for a forfeiture hearing June 11 in Cobb County Superior Court.

"Technically they may not want to release him until his charges are done there in Georgia," assistant Erie County prosecutor Mary Ann Barylski said. "We probably will be looking at indicting him at the next grand jury. There will probably be other charges considered."

Orzech declined to say how Ricks was linked to the crime, what his motive was, or if anything was taken from Harper.

A final autopsy on Harper is not complete, but preliminary results revealed Harper died from two gunshot wounds to the head, Erie County Coroner Dr. Brian Baxter said previously.

While the case remains under investigation, there are no other suspects as of now, Barylski said.

"We're still interviewing people every day," Orzech said.

The U.S. Marshals Service in Toledo helped Sandusky police find Ricks through their Fugitive Task Force.

"Originally when Ricks was identified as a suspect he was staying up in Detroit," Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Hodge said. "We received some information that he had fled. We were able to narrow (him) down to either being in the Atlanta area or the New Orleans area."

Hodge said he then contacted the U.S. Marshals in Atlanta about Ricks.

"Ultimately the (Atlanta area) task force, along with Cobb County authorities were the ones out there looking for Ricks on a daily basis," he said.

Because of Ricks' criminal record he was considered a "major case fugitive," he added.

"That means it's a high priority for us, and we'll dedicate a lot of time and resources to it," Hodge said. "We knew we'd have to chase him across the country to find him. He was a very dangerous guy, and we knew that he would kill again if we didn't find him."

If convicted of aggravated murder, Ricks faces a minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. He faces death as a maximum penalty under Ohio law.