Preble County, Ohio Prosecutor's OfficeMartin P. Votel, Prosecuting Attorney

Aggravated Murder Conviction of Gabriel Schaaf Affirmed

Published on January 25th, 2019

Summary

The Twelfth Appellate Court of Appeals has affirmed the Aggravated Murder and Tampering With Evidence Convictions of Gabriel Schaaf

The Aggravated Murder (R.C. 2903.01(A)) and Tampering With Evidence (R.C. 2921.12(A)(1)) convictions of Gabriel Schaaf have been affirmed by the Twelfth Appellate District Court of Appeals (CA2018-03-004).

On December 27, 2016, Gabriel Schaaf of 3994 Sonora Road in Lewisburg, Ohio called the Preble County Sheriff’s Office and reported that he had returned home from work to find the body of his son, Jonathan Schaaf, on the floor in the living room. He reported that he had last seen his son alive that morning before leaving for work. An autopsy revealed that the victim’s skull had been shattered and that he had been nearly decapitated by five massive blows to the back of the neck with a sharp object. Schaaf claimed to have no knowledge of the crime. Investigators, however, were immediately suspicious of Schaaf’s claims. The condition of the victim’s body and the blood on the floor surrounding the body suggested that Jonathan Schaaf had been dead for at least 24 hours.

Gabriel Schaaf was interviewed multiple times in the ensuing months as investigators attempted to resolve inconsistencies in his story. In June 2018, the defendant finally confessed to killing Jonathan with an axe, but claimed he had acted in self-defense. The case proceeded to a jury trial on January 22, 2018, with Prosecuting Attorney Martin P. Votel representing the State of Ohio and attorney Kirsten Knight representing the defendant, former judge David N. Abruzzo presiding. The jury rejected the defendant’s claim of self-defense; he was convicted of all charged crimes. On March 13, 2018, the court sentenced the defendant to 25 years-to-life for the aggravated murder of his son.

The defendant appealed these convictions, arguing that police had violated his Constitutional right to remain silent, had failed to properly advise him of his Miranda rights before questioning, and that the jury’s verdicts were not supported by sufficient evidence. On January 22, 2019, the Court of Appeals issued a written opinion affirming the trial court’s Constitutional rulings and finding that the verdicts were supported by sufficient evidence. The defendant’s convictions and sentence were affirmed in all respects.

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY MARTIN P. VOTEL: This appellate ruling brings to a close a criminal case which has been pending for well over two years in one form or another. The State of Ohio compliments the Preble County Sheriff’s Office for their thorough investigation of this crime – the brutal murder of Jonathan Schaaf would not have been solved were it not for their persistence and tenacity. The State hopes that the appellate court’s affirmation of the defendant’s convictions and sentence in this case will help bring closure and peace to family of Jonathan Schaff.