Thursday, October 9, 2003

Evidence re-checked in slaying

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

UNION TWP. - Authorities in this western Clermont County township are hoping advances in DNA analysis - and the passing of time - will turn up new leads in the unsolved homicide of Michael J. Carpenter.

Carpenter, 42, was found dead in his Picadilly Square Drive apartment Oct. 11, 1998.

A small man, just over 5 feet tall, the Wisconsin native was found naked, bound with socks and beaten about the face and head. He died from strangulation.

Officials have conducted more than 500 interviews, compiling the results in about 35 books, kept in cardboard boxes with other case files, logs and notes.

In all there are about five boxes of information, which Union Township Police Sgt. Scott Gaviglia keeps in his office.

One of the boxes is full of nothing but suspect interviews, he said Wednesday.

Throughout their investigation, officials have remained certain of at least two things: Carpenter's lifestyle played a part in his death, and he knew his killer.

Hours before he was found, Carpenter, who was married, visited a downtown Cincinnati gay bar. He had at times picked up male prostitutes, officials said.

"That's a very dangerous business," said Gaviglia, adding that such offenders often have drug habits, which can lead to unpredictable behavior.

Initially, officials tried interviewing members of the gay and bisexual communities to see if anyone knew Carpenter or saw anything. Investigators weren't able to turn up much.

"We're hoping that after five years, maybe someone who was reluctant to talk at that time will have come around," Gaviglia said.

Investigators are resubmitting bed sheets taken from the scene for DNA testing.

"The advances in DNA collection and analysis have been stunning" in the past five years, Gaviglia added.

Carpenter and his wife, Maria, moved to Clermont County in the mid-1990s from Wausau, Wis.

She discovered her husband's body shortly before 11 p.m. The apartment appeared to have been burglarized, and the couple's 1992 Ford Tempo was missing.

The car was found a short time later, abandoned in Oakley.

Maria Carpenter has since returned to Wisconsin. She couldn't be reached for comment.

Jane Sell, Michael Carpenter's older sister, said Wednesday that her family is still shaken by her brother's death.

"We want to know why someone would do this," she said, reached by phone at her home in Wausau. "We have no closure. We don't know anything about how he lived, and we don't really care. We just want to know what happened and why. We want to know who killed Michael."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Union Township Police at 752-1230.


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