Dead people don't talk

Matt Westerhold
Mar 17, 2014


Fremont Mayor Jim Ellis stepped in it earlier this month with this response to an inqury from the Sandusky Register:

"No one at the city is going to answer your questions regarding this matter," Ellis wrote. "It is an old case, and so the prudent thing is to promptly provide you with the documentary record and have you refer to it."

That "documentary record" is a 100-page report of the investigation by the Fremont police into the death of Lee Naus 15 years ago. At best, it is incomplete and portions of it have been removed; at worst, it represents an investigation designed and conducted to avoid the truth as to how Naus died.

In other words, Fremont we have a problem. 

The Register was contacted repeatedly and asked to review the police investigation of Naus' death. His body was found in the trash compactor of a garbage truck making its rounds at Bud's Tavern and other nearby businesses in October 1999.

The allegations about his death the Register received from numerous people seemed like wild speculation and rumor that had taken on a life of its own. Police covered up what really happened, they know who killed Naus and a law enforcement officer was involved, the Register was told.

Reporters and editors understand how that happens. A good reporter, by nature, is skeptical, not only of the "official story" public officials often tell, but also of the rumors and half-truths that arise whenever a mysterious death occurs. 

Before we asked for the "official story" from police, reporters contacted people they thought might have direct knowledge of the circumstances, given the location where Naus' body was found. Those initial conversations were difficult, but they lent credence to some of the speculation.

Ignoring information

Surely, we thought, the police report would dispel the concern, and once the information was better pinpointed, the Register made a public records request for the complete case file and all documents related to the investigation by the Fremont police.

The "documentary record" does nothing to dispel the concerns; the report fuels that concern.

One person the Register talked with prior to requesting the report had intimate knowledge about the investigation and told the Register it had no business looking into the death of Lee Naus. He also told reporters he talked extensively with Fremont police after Naus died, and police had clearly determined what happened that caused his tragic death.

But the police report doesn't do that, not by any stretch of the imagination and whatever conversations the man we talked with had with police back then aren't even included in it.

He was interviewed by police, the Register was told. His intimate knowledge of the investigation, and his proximity to the time and location where Naus' body was discovered, would require detectives to interview him if the purpose of the investigation was to learn the truth about how Lee Naus ended up in a dumpster the morning of Oct. 1, 1999.

Most of the 100-page report is made up of files related to Naus's probation record and other pages that appear to have very little to do with the investigation other than to define the victim in a bad light.

The balance of the report includes some of the same speculation the Register received recently, but the detectives simply documented that speculation without showing much, if any, real follow through on determining whether it was true or false.

And the only person police interviewed among several identified as potential suspects is not even listed in the report among the many individuals noted as being "involved." That man simply told investigators he was with Naus in the hours before he died but he knew nothing about he died,.

The detectives documented his response without any followup. The entire report is a documentation of the lack of followup, more so than it is a documentation of a competent investigation.

Follow the pattern

Enter Lucas County deputy coroner Cythia Beisser, who determined Naus died as the result of an accident; his body was crushed by the truck's trash compactor. End of story.

Lee Naus' family has been waiting 15 years for a plausible explanation how he ended up in the dumpster.

The family of Craig Burdine, who died at the Sandusky County jail minutes after he arrived there, has been waiting six years.

The family of Isabel Cordle has been waiting 26 years.

Bryan Jones family has been waiting for four years.

Each one of those cases involved alleged police involvement in the deaths of their family members.

And in each, there was never an independent investigation, or in the case of Craig Burdine, any investigation at all, of what happened. The Naus investigation appears to follow that same pattern.

Here's an excerpt from an email the Register received Friday from someone who hasn't contacted the newspaper previously. 

"I am so glad you are having the gull to bust our city out. Finally we may see an end to all this corruption that is occurring."

And here's another, from someone who hadn't contacted the Register previously.

"I hope you are able to break this thing wide open. Because that

detective thinks he can get away with anything and they both have people very afraid of them."

Ellis should address their concerns, and the concerns of these families and others, even if he intends to continue blocking the Register from receiving information.



@ Mr. Westerhold:

FBI profiler John Douglas ("Mind Hunter") suggested local papers run stories of cold case murders around their anniversary.

Sometimes someone will come forward with new info.

Occasionally out of remorse, the perpetrator will confess, visit the scene of the crime or the burial site.


What bothers me about the Cordle case is the family is stuck on Mark Carter, rather than looking at other possibilities. The man was in prison when this woman was murdered, I've known him since I was 10 years old and I'll be 29 this year. He was my step-father for about 7 years of this time and MY PERSONAL OPINION, to which everyone is entitled to of course, I dont believe for a second he had anything to do with this woman's murder nor dont I believe he would ever molest or rape a child. I normally keep to myself but I've been reading everybody's comments smearing this man when they have no idea who he is. And as far as him having "connections" is just ridiculous, and I think many people on here watch way too much Law and Order and 20/20. I doubt everybody on here has a law degree or is a forensic psychologist, I am neither of these but i would like to think that if Mark Carter was so brutal and a child molestor that myself, my younger brother, or my younger sister, or even my mother would've experienced this. Not to mention his youngest daughter who was also in the home.


Well the fact is Mark Carter stated he was guilty of molesting a pubescent underage male. Therefore, females would likely be safe.

Also, it is undisputed that he threatened Mrs. Cordle in the court room. That death threat should have merited another felony charge.

Finally, he had a "relationship" with a suspect, another underage male. It is not unreasonable to suspect he may have made good on his courtroom death threat via a "hit" through a male he controlled or manipulated.


And my little brother? What about him? He was never touched. Did they specify what kind of relationship? A friend maybe? Would you consider your friendships, male or female, a relationship, he was about 21when this happened, you had no underage friends at that age? Him orchestrating a hit is a little far fetched. You know what you've read in the papers, which should be taken with a grain of salt. Child molesters do not have only on victim, where's the rest of them? My step-brothers and
sisters never experienced this either. Or you're telling me this was the only incident. My point is unless you know this person or there's been a conviction don't believe everything you read. In this country it's not innocent until proven guilty, it's guilty until proven innocent. As far as the plea deal, do you want to know why Mark didn't have to serve the whole sentence? Because the boy admitted he lied about what happened, but what do I know I just read all the court papers.


I would rather go away for 25 years than take a plea deal for a crime I didn't commit. I don't care what you think you read, if you take a plea deal, there is some truth to the charges. I would go down fighting before I would EVER, EVER, let my Mom/Dad/Brothers/Sisters/etc think I raped a little BOY. He was either guilty, or the biggest pu$$y ever, and I know Mark...he is far from a Pu$$y.


If he in fact claimed to be innocent of the charge he could have pled No Contest, not admitted any wrongdoing and still been found guilty by the Court. So I agree with you, you don't plead guilty to a sex crime, especially male on male, if you are not guilty.


If the victim did in fact recant, did he do so AFTER his mother was murdered? You don't see the murder of the victim's mother having any role whatsoever in the supposed recanting of the charge?

I think a teen would get the message after his mother was murdered and might recant a true charge to save his life because he might believe the system could not protect him.


A VALID point as well!


I definately had relationships and freindships with underage children when I was 21. I babysat a couple of litttle boys, I had numerous nieces and nephews, I volunteered as a tee ball coach, I taught Sunday School and volunteered at arts and crafts for little kids. Not one time did it ever cross my mind to have sex with any of those kids!!

Do you know what happens to men in prison that has molested children? Who in their right mind would admit to having a sexual relationship with a child of the same sex, if they didn't really do it?

Pedophiles are controlling, manipulative and deceptive people. You and your siblings may not have been sexually abused, but you were definately deceived and manipulated into thinking exactly what Mark wanted you to think.

Of course after getting out of jail he wanted to live a "normal" life. But before he could, he had to find someone who would believe "his side" of the story.

The fact that you or your siblings were not molested by him is not shocking or unusual, and it certainly does NOT provide any proof that he is innocent of the previous charges.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Off-topic comments.


Jackson no he is not a witch doctor. He is only looking for the truth and to help theses familys out. Well done matt keep up the good work


Matt, jacksonbrowne's comment was not off topic!! He was simply stated the same thing you did in the article.....that he talked to someone that talked to someone, that knew someone, that thought they heard something....just like your article says that you UNCOVERED so much evidence!! You just didn't like the comment directed toward youyou. Seeing that you have all this information l, the case should be solved, right? Maybe you should become a detective since you are so good at digging up information....CASE SOLVED by Matt

Matt Westerhold

His comment was nonsensical, Please. The column is based on the documented information from police, the mayor and from the families that have been impacted. It might be a joke to that commenter, and you, but it's no joke to the families that have been impacted. And thanks, but I'm not interested in being a detective. 


Hey Matt, I take offense to that! Not all detectives are Dick's, you know.


How can Overmyer and Stierwalt be blamed for this. For crying out loud this happened long before they were in office. This is just getting more crazy every day.


There is the appearance that have failed to properly investigate this cold case in the present day after new evidence arose in the case, i.e. a "cover-up".


Matt where were you when people were making rude and insensitive comments about the people from last call bar? You allowed comments to remain that bordered on racist. You did not remove them nor did anyone else. They may have been a joke to the ones making the comments, but I assure you those families didn't think they were jokes.


They only get upset over Smearing their work, or bashing Democrats. Everything else is fair game. I've been the victim of their prejudice as a matter of fact! Lmao....Matt does a lot of GOOD work for the community and this paper, his downfall is his immature way of handling any criticism toward himself or the paper.

Matt Westerhold

I'll work on that, Babymomma


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Matt, it is not a joke, but you are saying people know things, but for some reason we don't know their names. You talked to someone, someone said something, someone did something.......someone who? And the article is not about what is documented, its about what you want it to be about...not the facts, but your opinion, like usual. I'm sure it is difficult for the families, but if you have some answers maybe you could help this difficult situation and give them the answers they are looking for.....since you think the police didn't do their job by uncovering everything, it looks like you did so help them out

Matt Westerhold

You're right, Please, it is an opinion column and therefore includes my opinion based on the documents the Register received and the responses we got from police and they mayor, and others. And there isn't a way to write a column without putting 'what (I) want it to be about" in it.

There was a reason one person's name was not mentioned, since it is not in the report. The emails cited were sent by residents who did not want their identities included in the column.

Perhaps you might consider putting a little more of your focus on the issues raised in the column, and the news stories, rather than offer your critique of my motives. Just consider it, please. 


Matt, the problem is people believe what you are saying are facts and they jump on the bandwagon. They are not facts, they are your opinion! Quit spinning your articles to make them sound like facts, that's all I'm saying. You should put more of your time on the facts and less of your opinion that people take as the truth. I know it is up to us to interpret facts and opinions, but you always make it sound like it is a fact that was uncovered, when it never was. You drum up more problems than solutions.


Please, calm down, you are showing your ignorance the more you comment. Let me educate you on a newspaper, something that has been around for many, many years.

Inside the newspaper you will find NEWS, these stories are filled with facts and quotes and sometimes photos. But there will be no opinions or bias from the author of that story.

Next you will see some ADVERTISEMENTS, these are paid for space based on column inch rates that local and national businesses pay for to sell their wares.

Last but not least, you will see and an EDITORIAL page, this is where the Editor, in this case Matt, gets to write an OPINION piece. Why? Because that is his job! FYI, when you see Matt's little picture beside his name, that means this is Matt's opinions based on knowledge of the story and facts he has gleaned from the public or other sources.

The rules for an editorial piece versus an opinion column or editorial are different. Most all of us intellects have understood that since about the fifth grade. None of us are having a hard time trying to decipher Matt's facts or opinion because we know, this is Matt's OPINION column! Duh.

Also, please, if the newspaper boy doesn't deliver your paper, you don't call Matt, you call the circulation manager.


I am an ex-step daughter of Mark Carter. My first question to all of you, who open your mouths is HAVE YOU EVER SEEN MARK CARTER? He pleaded guilty to a crime he didnt commit because if you see Mark sitting on the stand and a 14 year old CHILD is saying you touched them WHO ARE THEY GOING TO BELIEVE. Mark was a great step-dad him and my mother made sure us children didnt go without. There were 3 YOUNG girls, and 1 YOUNG boy who was 9 when my mom and Mark got together in the home AND NOT ONE OF US WAS TOUCHED. The only reason why Tammy threw Mark under the bus is because Tammy STILL TO THIS DAY wants Mark and he wants nothing to do with her and it kills her that Mark doesnt want her. As for Mark "BEING A MASTERMIND" tell me if someone was accusing you of something you didnt do (to the extent that it was) you wouldnt be mad and say things you didnt mean. Why does Richard SR lie detector test keep comming back INCONCLUSIVE but when Mark asks for one he isnt given one. The only reason why Richard SR and Mark got into it is because Richard SR was the one abusing his children and Mark confronted him and 3 days later was being arrested for raping JR sounds a little fishy to me. EXPLAIN WHY EDDY (WHICH IS ISABEL AND RICHARDS YOUNGEST SON) WHO WAS SLEEPING WITH RICHARD SR IN THE ROOM RIGHT NEXT TO THE LIVINGROOM (ISABEL WAS MURDERED IN THE LIVINGROOM)COMMITTED SUICIDE IN THE SENECA COUNTY JAIL. WHAT DID HE DO WHAT DID HE SEE WHAT DID HE KNOW WHAT DID HE HEAR WHY DID HE HAVE SUCH ISSUES HE HAD TO TAKE HIS OWN LIFE... I GUESS WHEN YOU DO OR SEE OR HEAR "SOMEONE" MURDERING YOUR MOTHER, AND YOUR PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY, AND POSSIBLY SEXUALLY ABUSED BY YOUR FATHER (AND YOUR MOTHER ACCUSES THE NEIGHBOR WHO WAS NOTHING BUT NICE TO YOU) DOES A LITTLE BIT OF DAMAGE. AND THANK U TO MATT WESTERHOLD FOR POINTING OUT THAT IT IS NOT JUST ISABEL'S FAMILY THAT HAS BEEN IMPACTED BUT ALL FAMILIES INVOLVED.


How do you know that parts of the information are missing, Mr. Westerhold? You say it is over 100 pages and parts are missing. What pieces did you expect to get that you did not get? It would be interesting to know what parts of the papers you expected to see that were not there? You made mention that you did get the autopsy report, which I would think would be MOST helpful. So what part was missing that you did not get to see that you wanted?

Also, what makes you think that they held back anything you felt was imperative in the way of investigation? Who do you think they should have followed up with that they did not? Do you think you know who killed this man? If so, have you stated so to the family or any of their representatives so that they might follow up with this to give them some sort of closure? I would hope you did.

This county is obviously out of control and needs to be stopped. If it's corruption goes back to 1999, then who is controlling this mess?


@ Mr. Westerhold:

Gotta ask:

Why does the comment removal function only selectively work on your editorial page and none other?


If the Sandusky Register had a editor from 1950's who discriminated against women and minorities ( a man of his times) and we have proof of that do we hold Mr. Westerhold resposnible?


I suspect an alligator had something to do with one of the deaths. That means I demand the police investigate an alligator! then when the police don't investigate the alligator I suspect there are some shady things going on. this is an example of Matt's editorial and the way he believes!!

Jim Lahey

There was an independent investigation for the Bryan Jones shooting. BCI processed the scene, and the case was forwarded to the Grand Jury. Officers were cleared by the 12 jurors and the findings by law enforcement were consistent with the findings by BCI. That statement was not true.

Matt Westerhold

Yes that's correct. BCI surmised that a sleeping man — Jones — committed suicide by cop. Makes perfect sense. It all lined up nicely. 

Jim Lahey

So law enforcement, BCI, the AG's office, courts, coroners, prosecutors, mayors, and detectives are all corrupt. I doubt it.