Friday, September 17, 2004

Relative takes up fight for justice

Four women slain; killers seek parole

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer


Letters regarding the parole of convicted killers Watterson Johnson and Raymond Kassow can be sent to: Ohio Adult Parole Authority, 1050 Freeway Drive North, Columbus, Ohio 43229. Include the convict's name, the institution where he is housed and the institution number, which are listed below:

Raymond Kassow, Hocking Correctional Institution, A130608

Watterson Johnson, Chillicothe Institution, A130619

Just before Walter Rischmann died in 2002, his son promised that as long as he lived, the three men who killed Walter's sister and three other women during a 1969 Delhi Township bank robbery would never get out of prison.

The decision whether those men stay behind bars or are released isn't Richard Rischmann's to make. But now that Raymond Kassow, 59, and Watterson Johnson, 55, are up for parole, he is fighting to keep them in prison.

The third killer, John L. Leigh, died in prison in 2000."I promised my dad I would carry the fight on," said Rischmann, 52, of Cheviot. "It was very important to him that Kassow and Johnson die in prison."

Kassow's parole hearing was Sept. 3. A release decision is pending. Johnson's appearance before the board is scheduled sometime between Sept. 22 and Sept. 24.

Rischmann is asking the community to write letters requesting that parole be denied.

"It's the only way to tell the parole board the community still cares about what happened," Rischmann said.

Delhi Township trustees signed a proclamation saying the killers should remain imprisoned. And Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, County Sheriff Simon Leis and Delhi Township Police Chief Thomas Bauer wrote letters to the parole board saying the men must serve life sentences.

It's been almost 35 years since Rischmann's aunt, Helen Huebner, Lillian Dewald and sisters Luella and Henrietta Stitzel died.

According to Hamilton County prosecutors: On Sept. 24, 1969, Dewald was working as a teller at Cabinet Supreme Savings and Loan Association at about 11 a.m. when the three men walked in to rob the bank.

Three customers walked in moments later. The men forced all four women into the vault and shot them until they ran out of bullets.

The men escaped with $275.

Huebner's husband, Joe, who had been waiting outside, discovered the homicides.

Police tracked Kassow to his home that same day. Leigh and Johnson were caught a few days later near Gallup, N.M.

In separate trials that ran simultaneously in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, juries convicted each man on four counts of murder and sentenced them to die. When capital punishment was abolished in Ohio in 1972, their death sentences were commuted to life in prison, making them eligible for parole.

Kassow and Johnson were previously denied parole in 1994.


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