Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Love to face death penalty

He's 'an animal,' prosecutor says

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When they crossed paths last month, prosecutors say, Lance Love and James Osterbrock had almost nothing in common.

        Mr. Love was a drifter with no money, no job and no permanent address. Mr. Osterbrock was a successful businessman with a nice car and a house filled with antiques.

        Prosecutors say Mr. Love needed only a handgun to claim it all.

        “He stalked his prey, robbed him and killed him,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said Tuesday. “And Lance Love, in effect, assumed the identity of James Osterbrock.”

        Mr. Allen described Mr. Love as “an animal” when he announced that a grand jury had indicted Mr. Love on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, theft and burglary.

        If he's convicted, Mr. Love could be sentenced to death.

        Mr. Allen said the maximum penalty is justified because Mr. Love plotted his crime in hopes of taking everything that was precious to Mr. Osterbrock, including his life.

        He said the plot began to unfold May 8 when Mr. Love told a friend, Robert Roetting, that he knew someone who wanted to buy Mr. Roetting's handgun.

        Prosecutors say the two men drove to Mr. Osterbrock's house on Liberty Hill, where Mr. Love promised he would meet with the buyer. Once there, prosecutors say, Mr. Love left with the gun and never came back.

        A day later, they say, Mr. Love returned to the house and let himself in using the security code. They say Mr. Love knew the code because he had recently done repair work on the house.

        Armed with the gun, Mr. Allen said, Mr. Love waited alone in the dark for Mr. Oster brock to get home from a Mother's Day dinner with relatives.

        When he arrived, Mr. Allen said, Mr. Love robbed him of cash, personal items and the keys to his sports-utility vehicle. He said Mr. Love then led Mr. Osterbrock to the basement, where he strangled him.

        “He treated his victim not unlike an animal stalks its prey in the wild,” Mr. Allen said.

        He said Mr. Love covered the body with bags, Christmas decorations and other items in the basement before driving off.

        Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said Mr. Love returned the next day to take more items from the house, including Rookwood pottery and a CD player.

        Prosecutors say Mr. Love spent the next few days living as Mr. Osterbrock, 52. They say he used his credit cards, drove his vehicle and registered under his name at hotels.

        After the body was discovered, they say, Mr. Love used his “survivalist” skills to elude police for nearly a month.

        Mr. Allen said the suspect pawned some of the stolen items for food money and frequently camped in the woods at cemeteries, including Spring Grove Cemetery.

        At three locations, he said, Mr. Love buried stolen items. Mr. Allen said many of those items have been recovered but he did not provide more details about the investigation.

        He said Mr. Love, 32, gave police a statement about the case that will likely be used at trial. “This, plus forensic evidence, leads us to believe we have a strong case,” Mr. Allen said.

        He would not comment on Mr. Love's statement other than to say it suggested a possible motive.

        “His stated purpose was to steal the vehicle of James Osterbrock,” he said. “The motive we have is robbery and robbery alone.”

        Mr. Love was arrested downtown last week after he was spotted by a 911 caller.

        Police have said Mr. Love told them he was wandering around reminiscing about an old girlfriend.


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