CELINA — After 16 months, 329 interviews and thousands of hours on the case, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey named Wednesday the man he believes bound and shot a rural Fort Recovery man and woman.
The man, Trevin Sanders, wasn’t even at man, by law, at the time. Now 18, Sanders was 17 when Robert and Colleen Grube were shot and killed inside their home surrounded by farm fields on Nov. 29 or 30, 2011.
Colleen Grube’s sister-in-law found the bodies. Robert Grube, 70, was found in his wheelchair while his 47-year-old daughter was on a couch. They were bound with duct tape and shot to death.
Sanders, originally from Union City, sits in an Indiana prison serving time for theft and receiving stolen property. He’s been there since October 2012 on charges unrelated to the Grube murders.
Sanders will be brought back to Mercer County to face 27 criminal counts, Grey said, including two counts of aggravated murder with a gun, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
Bringing Sanders back may take some time. The extradition process and the fact he was a juvenile at the time of the crime create several legal obstacles. Although the case will start in Mercer County Juvenile Court, Sanders can be tried as an adult. He cannot face the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.
Also charged is Bryant Rhoades, 22, of Union City, with one count of obstructing justice, a third-degree felony. The charge normally is a misdemeanor. Because it’s connected to a high-level felony, Grey said, it becomes a felony.
Rhoades was arrested Tuesday morning and is being held on a $350,000 bond.
Grey did not explain Rhoades' role. Mercer County Prosecutor Matt Fox said Rhoades' charge relates to a June 4 incident. Fox said Rhoades hindered the investigation and gave false information to detectives on the Grube murders.
Court records indicate Rhoades was arrested Jan. 3, 2012, with others in connection with clandestine methamphetamine lab discovered at his home on state Route 571 in Union City.
“Rhoades made multiple statements to investigator regarding information relevant to the Grube homicide,” according to court records. “One interview occurred on June 4, 2012. Rhoades stated that there was an unnamed female subject involved in the Grube homicide, and that on the night of the homicide, Rhoades had met her at a mobile home in Broadway Mobile Home Court, Fort Recovery.”
Rhoades took investigators to the trailer park and showed them the house trailer, but investigators determined his story was fabricated. The trailer home belonged to a man who had lived there for more than 30 years. According to court records, that man had no connection to the Grube murders.
Grey said it’s possible others will be arrested.
The scope of the case
While sheriff's officials previously said evidence showed a man and woman were present at the time of the murders, Grey did not discuss that. The sheriff said, to protect the integrity of the investigation, he was not answering any questions.
“I’m not going to take any questions today. I apologize for that. We don’t have these kind of cases in Mercer County so I want to be very, very careful what I say,” Grey said.
But Grey does have such a case. And whether it’s in a small village like Fort Recovery with 1,430 people or a big city, it’s a an important case. Grey said the case is now with Fox’s office but investigators will assist and check out any information that comes up.
Fox declined further comment Wednesday.
The big break
Grey said the big break in the case came in January 2012 when the sheriff from Jay County, Ind., just over the state line a few miles from Fort Recovery, called with the news he may have information on the Grube murders.
“Sheriff (Ray) Newton called me on the phone and said, ‘Hey, we arrested some people. Some things in this just make me wonder if it might be connected,’” Grey said.
Grey sent his lead investigator, Sgt. Doug Timmerman, to check on the information. Timmerman has been on the case since the beginning along with agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Attorney General Mike DeWine assigned the agents to the case after taking a special interest.
Shortly after arriving, Timmerman called to request additional officer. Hours passed, and Grey hadn’t heard from his investigators. He called and soon found himself on the way to Jay County.
“That was probably the turning point. The information that came out of that helped us start putting things together and getting on the right track,” he said.
The trip to Indiana was just one of many to that state for investigators. Union City, where Sanders and Rhoades are from, is 15 miles south of the Grubes’ home and straddles the Ohio-Indiana boarder.
Detectives also found themselves in Kentucky, Tennessee and southern Ohio during the investigation. They also were led to prisons in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky to question people or chase evidence, Grey said.
After thousands of hours, numerous dead-end leads and a mountain of paperwork, investigators had enough to charge two people. Grey did not discuss a motive, but authorities previously said whoever was in the Grube house and killed them stole a laptop computer.
Court records also said Sanders stole a gun from the Grubes.
Grey said the case was never cold or at a standstill.
“We never had a time where we were sitting going we don’t have anything to do, we don’t have anything to follow up on,” he said. The discussion was more about which tips received first priority to check out, Grey said.
There were 88 tips, he said, and other information led to 179 court ordered subpoenas or search warrants.
What happens next
Grey stressed the case is far from over.
“It’s only halftime right now. We made an arrest but the goal wasn’t an arrest; the goal was a conviction,” he said. “I want to stress we are not done and we are still actively investigating the case. We want to make sure we get everyone that was involved. We are going to keep searching and keep looking.”
Grey and his lead detective met with the Grube family Tuesday evening to inform them of the charges and answer questions. He said the family have asked for privacy.
The sheriff asked that anyone who knows anything about the case contact his investigators or the tip line at 567-890-8477.
“I don’t want people to just walk away and go, 'They made an arrest. It’s done. I don’t need to give them the information,'” he said. “We don’t want anybody to be able to walk away from this that was there.”