Officers charged Norwalk woman Bethany Sandy, 24, of West Chestnut Street, with complicity to aggravated murder, arson androbbery at about 1:30 a.m. Friday, Sandusky police Sgt. Dana Newell said.
While police declined to comment on Bethany’s alleged accomplice until formal charges are brought against him, George’s widow, Florence, said Bethany’s husband — who is also Florence’s relative — Joseph Sandy, 33, is the man who allegedly helped kill George.
Not only did Joseph allegedly murder the man who helped raise him at times, he was a pallbearer at George’s funeral, Florence said.
“That he would even lay a hand on the casket — it is horrifying,” Florence said, distraught.
“I was devastated when they told me. I didn’t want to believe it. I still don’t. I always liked Joey and he was a good kid growing up. To have someone in your family do that ... it just doesn’t seem like it’s real to me,” she said.
Watch Friday's press conference in the player below
Six long months
Florence has lived in limbo now for 170 days, but Friday’s news has done little to ease her mind — in one fell swoop, she lost her husband of 61 years, her home of a decade and her beloved Daschund, Princess.
Florence returned to her Campbell Street home the night of Dec. 3 to find the structure ablaze and her husband’s life extinguished.
“My husband and I talked about it and we knew we had to go someday. But we never planned on it being like this” Florence said. For months, police believed the suspects, whoever they were, hastily set the house on fire to cover their crimes.
They stabbed George more than 20 times, then disappeared into the night, Sandusky police Chief John Orzech said.
Investigators only had two shadowy figures on far-off surveillance video to work with, but on Thursday, a friend of Bethany’s cracked and told Norwalk police Sgt. Tom Cook what she knew, Norwalk police Chief Dave Light said.
Break in the case
Light contacted Newell, and Bethany was detained at her home late Thursday. After about an hour-long interview, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter authorized a charge and she was taken to the Erie County jail.
One piece of the puzzle that had eluded investigators thus far was the motive of George’s alleged killers.
That piece fell into place Thursday after Bethany’s interview:
“From what the investigation has revealed so far, (they) strictly went there to steal items to support their drug habit,” Orzech said. “They didn’t go there with the intention of setting the fire”
Nor did they go there with the intention of killing George, Orzech said.
The pair did, however, expect him to be home, according to Orzech.
George let them in his home that night willingly, Orzech said, but investigators still don’t know what sparked the violence.
Bethany allegedly made off with Florence’s jewelry from the home. She also took $200, Florence said, though she didn’t know if George may have gifted the cash or if it was part of the alleged robbery.
Florence named a few 14 karat gold pieces and her jewelry box as the haul Bethany and Joseph allegedly stole, before taking her husband’s life.
Panicked, Bethany later allegedly dumped the items into the lake near Catawba Island, along with the murder weapon, a knife, Florence said.
Sandusky police asked Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies to search for the cache, Orzech said, with dispatchers confirming a dive team was scouring the shoreline near Ohio 53 Friday afternoon.
Orzech refused to name Bethany’s accomplice on Friday, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
He did say there were only two suspects total and the person who has yet to be charged was related to George through “family ties.” Orzech went on to say the suspect is currently incarcerated in Ohio on an unrelated charge.
Joseph Sandy has been behind bars at the Lorain Correctional Institution since late March for a felony OVI, according to jail records.
His father is Florence’s first cousin, and he knew George well in his younger years.
“(My grandson) and Joey were raised up together. My husband was like a father to Joey. He’d take (the boys) out to Coho Dam in the summer to fish and climb around like kids do” Florence said.
That grandson, Paul Doughty, still can’t believe what police told him early Friday.
“We’re trying to process everything. There’s just a lot of blank space. I don’t know that I have an emotion yet,” Doughty said.
“I don’t think we’re angry, I just think we’re astonished. Sandusky police have been very good to our family,” Doughty said. “I’m appreciative of everything they’ve done”
During the investigation, spearheaded by Newell and Detective Gary Wichman, investigators interviewed dozens of people.
One of those was Joseph himself, Wichman said.
“We had a feeling it was somebody they knew, so you start with the inner circle of family and work your way out. We drew up a family tree and went through … interviewing people” Wichman said.
Joseph was arrested on a probation violation and officers questioned him at the Erie County jail in early January, Wichman said.
“It was just a brief interview about his knowledge of George, his whereabouts, took a DNA (sample), general information like that” Wichman said.
Joseph told Wichman the Martins had contacted him in late summer or early fall to cut down some dead ash trees in their yard. Other than that, the pair had not communicated regularly, Wichman said.
Phone records show no recent contact between Joseph and the Martins — that is, detectives believe Joseph and Bethany showed up to the Campbell Street home without preface Dec. 3.
Joseph’s local criminal record is mild compared to the latest incident he’s allegedly tied to. Sandusky and Perkins police reports show minor complaints in which he was involved, along with a few drunken fight incidents and at least two drunken driving incidents.
The Sandys have lived at multiple local addresses, including East Perkins Avenue, Oakland Avenue and Carr Street, police said. Only recently did they move to Norwalk, Orzech said.
Newell went to Lorain Friday in an attempt to interview the suspect, Orzech said.
But as of Friday night, Joseph had not been charged in this case.
The case will also be presented to an Erie County grand jury to decide on potential additional charges and the possibility of the death penalty, Baxter said.
Bethany is now being held at the Erie County jail on $1 million bond.
As for Florence?
“I don’t know,” she said through tears. “I guess the Christ in me would have to love him anyway because he didn’t know what he was doing. I think the drugs did it to him, but there’s just no excuse for it. I don’t want to talk to him — I keep having visions of my husband being killed”
“It’s like a dream” Florence said. “No, like a nightmare”