Grisly tale of deception: In Justin Barnard murder

Based on the investigation and statements from dozens of people and the killers themselves, Prosecutor Amanda K. Spies and Assistant Prosecutor Robert C. Urban Jr. on Wednesday ?in the wake of Tuesday’s sentencing of the fourth and final defendant, Amanda Sickels Bowditch ?related the horrific story investigators have pieced together. Justin Stephan, Chad Bowditch and Amanda Bowditch, all 19, have been sentenced to life in prison without parole eligibility. Diane Dinkelmann, 42, is serving a sentence of 21 years to life after having taken a plea bargain offered by prosecutors. Spies declined to elaborate on the details of the plea negotiations in the case.
Urban began the story with the Sept. 27 discovery of Barnard’s bloated, decomposing body, which was snagged on a tree limb in the Tuscarawas River just off Rt. 416 south of New Philadelphia. The body ?wrapped in a sheet and bound by blue, weighted rope ?exhibited evidence of his tortured last moments. Upon learning of the grisly discovery, Patricia Barnard Stoller of New Philadelphia contacted sheriff’s deputies, who were investigating because the body was found outside the city limits. She hadn’t seen her son for several days, and she had become concerned. ‘He was an adult and came and went as he pleased,?Urban said. ‘It was not unusual for him to be gone for a few days at a time.?P> After Stoller identified the body as that of her 18-year-old son, the investigation began in earnest. ‘Once we knew who it was, we secured information from Justin’s cell phone ?friends, acquaintances, anyone in the memory of the cell phone and started contacting these people,?Urban said. Conversations with friends yielded a time frame as to when he last had been seen. Spies said Barnard went to Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia with friends on Sunday, Sept. 18. He stayed overnight at a brown house near Dinkelmann’s residence in the 300 block of 2nd St. NW, New Philadelphia. Chad and Amanda Bowditch were being evicted from the house and were in the process of moving their things to Dinkelmann’s house where Stephan already lived. Spies said Dinkelmann took the Bowditches and Stephan to work at the Trail of Terror, a Halloween attraction at Bolivar, on Monday, Sept. 19, and picked them up from work in the early evening hours. Barnard had gone to the Tuscarawas County Fair at Dover with friends. ‘They went shopping to get a bunch of alcohol and snacks,?Spies said. ‘Then they went back to D’s (Dinkelmann’s) house and that’s when they started to plot the murder. D is easily upset. Chad makes suggestions to her that Justin Barnard had been running his mouth about D around the neighborhood and that Justin needs to be done away with. They all went out looking for Justin Barnard, but they couldn’t find him because he went to the fair.?P> Barnard and a friend got back to the brown house around midnight, she said. Chad Bowditch and Stephan showed up, asking Barnard to go with them under the pretense of having a birthday party for Dinkelmann. Barnard followed them to Dinkelmann’s house and was given a beer. Stephan admitted to having taken a hit of LSD, Spies said, and marijuana was being smoked. ‘They all had knives, and D was waiting in the basement,?Spies said. ‘They said they were going to the basement to chug a beer. They got him into a corner of the basement and said ‘let’s chug.?P> ‘He put the bottle to his mouth, and D stabbed him so forcefully her knife went in to the hilt. At that point everyone else got in on the stabbing.?P> Spies said there were no defensive wounds on Barnard and that he kept asking them why they were hurting him. She said he was curled up on the floor in a fetal position as the stabbing continued. He kept asking them why they were doing that to him. In an effort to silence Barnard, Stephan slit his throat. ‘Chad Bowditch lit a cigarette and stood and watched him bleed to death,?Spies said. ‘Justin Stephan then took two bricks, and it took three blows to the head before he was dead.?P> Spies said Chad Bowditch and Stephan wrapped the body in a sheet and secured it with weighted fishing rope from Dinkelmann’s basement. They hosed Barnard’s blood down the basement drain before they loaded his body into the back of Dinkelmann’s pickup truck. Dinkelmann’s 14-year-old son, who now is in the custody of the Department of Job and Family Services, was upstairs in the house during the murder and subsequent activities, according to Spies. Dinkelmann, accompanied by Stephan, drove to the Mill Ave. SE bridge near New Towne Mall shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20. She backed up to the railing, and Stephan pulled the body out of the truck and over the railing. As they drove on Mill Ave. toward S. Broadway, a New Philadelphia police officer responding to an alarm drop at the nearby Ohio Power facility pulled up beside them. Dinkelmann had forgotten to turn her lights on, and the officer reminded her to do so. Later that day, the four continued to clean up and began to paint Dinkelmann’s basement to hide the evidence of their crime. They also threw the remainder of the rope and the knives and bricks used to kill Barnard in various locations around DInkelmann’s neighborhood and in Shel-Mar mobile home park where Amanda Bowditch grew up. Coroners determined Barnard died from a massive skull fracture and also suffered 16 or 17 stab wounds to his head, neck, trunk and extremities. Six of the stab wounds were in the front of his neck and two penetrated his voice box. Spies said Chad Bowditch and Stephan had a chilling conversation the day after the murder. ‘Justin Stephan said Chad Bowditch was so hyped up about the kill he asked, ‘who are we going to kill today?’ she said. Stephan said he wasn’t killing anyone else. ‘A couple of days after the murder, Chad Bowditch goes to Patricia Barnard Stoller’s house to see where Justin was,?she said. ‘Life continues for them. They go to the fair, they do whatever they do.?P> The friend who accompanied Barnard to the fair and returned to the brown house with him shortly before he was killed later would tell authorities that Chad Bowditch said later that Barnard had left in the middle of the night to go to California to see his father. Chad Bowditch had told the others that if they could avoid detection for seven days, they’d never be caught. What he failed to realize, Spies said, is that a decomposing body produces gas and that gas will bring a body to the surface of the water.
One person interviewed by sheriff deputies said she was at the fair with Stephan on Thursday, Sept. 22, and he told her he’d killed a man and would do it again. Spies said she believes Stephan gave the most accurate and truthful rendition of events. He said the whole thing ‘just snowballed.?P> ‘Justin Stephan’s explanation to us was that the more they drank, the more stupid they got,?she said. ‘Justin Stephan was very consistent in the details he gave us.?P> Urban said investigators honed in on the four early in the case based on their statements and the statements of others, but it wasn’t known exactly to what extent each person was involved. They each gave multiple statements that usually implicated the others and at times were very inconsistent. Both Dinkelmann and Stephan began talking to prosecutors after they had entered their guilty pleas, and the picture became clearer. Spies said the group was practicing Wicca and at one point dabbled in Satanism. ‘But I don’t think that had anything to do with it,?she said. ‘Amanda Bowditch had claimed Justin Barnard raped her at one point. Chad Bowditch didn’t even think that was truthful. There didn’t appear to be any credibility to that.?P> Urban said Amanda Bowditch and Barnard enjoyed a very close relationship and had been friends for several years. That may have been too much for Chad Bowditch to handle, he added. ‘Chad may have had jealousy issues, concern that his new wife had a very close relationship with Justin Barnard,?he said. Why Dinkelmann got involved can be traced to seemingly false statements made to her by Chad Bowditch, Spies said. ‘D is very easily fired up, especially when she’s been drinking,?Spies said. ‘She was quite a neighborly woman and talked to her neighbors a lot. She became irritated that a young person was destroying her relationship with her neighbors and decided it was time for him to go.?P> Urban said Stephan and Amanda Bowditch were followers. Stephan apparently believed Barnard had hurt Amanda Bowditch. ‘Chad Bowditch was the match that started this fire,?he said. ‘There is no rational reason, if there ever is such a thing. All four were asked by the family point blank why and not one provided an answer or an explanation.?P> ‘I think it was that these people wanted to have the experience of what it felt like to murder someone,?Spies added. ‘I think it was curiosity of if they could get away with it.?P> They must have felt they would. A corrections officer who transported the four to court on Oct. 6 reported how ‘all four inmates were talking to one another, laughing and joking around.?The officer stated they discussed their fingerprints on the knives and the painting of the basement to hide their tracks. During a Sept. 30 interview, Amanda Bowditch stated she had planned to attempt to commit suicide and then take the blame for the whole event. She said she had slit her wrists on Sept. 28 and was hospitalized. In one of her statements, Dinkelmann said Amanda Bowditch was ‘mental?and could get out of it. Both Spies and Urban praised the investigative work of the sheriff’s office and detectives Orvis Campbell, Scott Ballentine and Cathy Bickford. They also appreciated the courtesy and patience of the Barnard family, they said. Spies said she cannot recall another county homicide at the hands of four people and called the entire case ‘unprecedented.?The cases against the four defendants were resolved without trials within exactly nine months of the murder. ‘I don’t think we could have gotten a better outcome,?Spies said. ‘For Dinkelmann, this is a life sentence for her. I don’t anticipate she will ever walk out of Marysville.?P> It’s not the first time Dinkelmann has been incarcerated. Then known as Diane Howland, she went to prison in the 1980s for robbing a disabled man in a wheelchair in Suffolk County, N.Y. According to investigator’s records, she also attacked a family member with a chainsaw, but no charges were filed.