Saturday, October 4, 2003

Charge dropped in '77 killing because of murky evidence

The Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - Charges against a man recently accused in a 1977 slaying were dropped because it's unclear where he was at the time.

Ricky Nelson Bixler, 44, was charged with murder two weeks ago.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Department said it learned of the crime by monitoring Bixler's phone conversations while he was in the county jail this summer.

But Wood County Prosecutor Raymond Fischer said his office learned last week that Bixler may have been in a central Ohio juvenile detention center at the time of the death of Levi Warner, 58.

Warner was found shot in the head in his home near North Baltimore.

Prosecutors said Bixler's whereabouts at the time were unclear.

"We've been spending a whole week, four or five people, trying to figure out where he was in August 1977," Fischer said. "The Ohio youth facility that he was in, the Fairfield School for Boys, isn't even in existence anymore."

The facility in Lancaster was closed as a juvenile detention center more than 20 years ago.

Records that could document whether Bixler was there are missing or destroyed, Fischer said.

Fischer said Bixler remains a suspect in Warner's death.

Bixler had been serving a 23-year sentence in Kansas since 1994 for abducting and raping a church worker there in 1993. He was brought back to Ohio this summer and was convicted of raping a Leipsic woman in November 1992.

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