Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Counties compare home invasions
By Margie Wuebker
Investigators continue to look for similarities between a Sunday morning home invasion and attempted murder in Van Wert and two unsolved cases in Mercer County.
Van Wert County Sheriff Stan Owens told The Daily Standard this morning there is a collaborative effort. However, he stopped short of linking the cases.
"We're working hand in hand with Mercer County Sheriff's personnel in this matter and we are sharing information," Owens said. "We are exploring every avenue."
The latest incident in the Middle Point area occurred early Sunday morning when two men entered the home of 27-year-old Daniel Hemker through an unlocked "walk-in" garage door. They confronted the home's lone occupant and restrained him in a chair.
Owens declined to comment on the nature of the restraint and what was taken during the burglary.
Hemker, who reportedly suffered a knife wound, was freed from the chair and restrained in the backseat of his Honda Accord. One of the perpetrators drove the car to a nearby quarry with the other suspect following in a vehicle described as a dark-colored mid- to late 1990s Ford Ranger pickup truck with an extended cab and a short bed.
"The suspect got out of the car at the quarry and used something to make it accelerate," Owens said. "We are not sure what he used."
The driverless car entered the 35-foot-deep quarry and rolled over as the passenger compartment filled with water. The back window broke as the car's roof hit bottom.
"He (Hemker) was able to free himself, get out through the back window and swim to shore," Owens said.
Hemker walked 21/2 miles to his home and placed a 911 call at 2:25 a.m. The sheriff could not explain why the victim chose to walk home instead of stopping at several homes along the way.
He was initially taken by ambulance to Van Wert County Hospital and then transferred by Life Flight emergency helicopter to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, where he was treated then released.
Van Wert deputies canvassed the area but received no reports of suspicious activity or a vehicle fitting the truck's description.
The submerged car was recovered Tuesday and is being processed for evidence.
One suspect is described as 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighing 180 to 190 pounds. The other stands 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches and weighs about 240 to 250 pounds.
Owens, who termed the incident as one of the most serious in recent years, said the culprits could face charges of aggravated burglary, felonious assault, kidnapping and attempted murder.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey this morning said his investigators have talked with Van Wert officials.
"We are not holding anything back from Van Wert investigators," he said. "We continue to gather information and share notes even though we have not confirmed the crimes are related."
Robert and Colleen Grube were found Nov. 30 bound with duct tape and shot to death at their Burrville Road home near Fort Recovery. The perpetrators - reportedly at least one man and a woman - ransacked the home and officials have said a laptop computer was missing from the scene. A relative found the bodies of the father and daughter.
Two men and a woman forcibly entered the Mendon home of William and Kathy Fair on Feb. 25 and demanded money. The trio fled with the money after the father and daughter resisted efforts to bind their hands with duct tape.
Intruders at the Fair home were described as two white men - one under 5 feet, 7 inches and stocky while the other is taller and thinner - and one female, skinny and around 5 feet, 1 inch.
"At this point it is doubtful I will be releasing any new information in the Grube and Fair cases until we have somebody in handcuffs," Grey said. "There is no timetable on when that might happen."
The sheriff declined to comment whether the investigation has reached a point of identifying possible suspects.