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Warren County Ohio Cold Case and Ohio’s Statute of Limitations in Criminal Cases

Less than three weeks ago, a Warren County grand jury indicted Sam Perone on one count of murder stemming from a death that occurred 23 years ago. The victim, Richard Woods, was killed on October 8, 1992. His body was found over one month later in a wooded ravine alongside Middleboro Road in Washington Township with two gunshot wounds to the head. His car was found 1.5 miles away at an I-71 rest area.

Warren County investigators interviewed Sam Perone shortly after Woods’ body was found and believe he was the last person to see Richard Woods. Just before his death, Woods, a successful furniture salesman, had visited Perone’s furniture business in Lebanon’s Colony Square plaza. According to Warren County Prosecutor Dave Fornshell, Perone was a rival salesman of Woods.

In 2006, investigators reopened the cold case based on new evidence and forensic techniques. Some of this new evidence consisted of newly discovered blood on the carpet in Perone’s old furniture store. Although DNA tests were conducted, results were inconclusive at the time.

Last year, investigators spent over three days reconstructing the homicide where Woods’ body was found, near I-71’s exit 36-Middleboro Road. However, details about what prompted the new search were not disclosed.

Many interested in this fascinating case might wonder about the criminal statute of limitations-the timeframe in which a criminal prosecution must begin before the State can no longer charge a person with a crime. For certain crimes, after so much time has passed, it is too late; the State can no longer charge an individual with a crime. There is no period of limitation, however, for the prosecution of aggravated murder or murder. In fact, every state lacks a statute of limitations period for a murder charge. This means the State can charge an individual with aggravated murder or murder no matter how late in the game, so long as it has sufficient evidence to convince a jury probable cause exists to believe the person committed the crime.

In this case, 23 years have passed since Perone allegedly murdered Woods-but of course, because Perone is facing a murder charge, no criminal statute of limitations applies. And while the public does not have details of the specific evidence used in the indictment proceedings, the Warren County Prosecutor’s office was able to convince the grand jury that sufficient evidence existed (i.e., probable cause) to indict Mr. Perone. The public should be aware, however, that achieving a grand jury indictment is relatively easy and does not mean that the person indicted is guilty.

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