Murder Suspects Plead Innocent

CADIZ – The two people accused of killing Joseph Strother in March at Sally Buffalo Park had their first appearance in a Harrision County court Friday while the victim’s family and friends protested outisde.

Matthew Dowdel, 24, of Hopedale, and Eve Kelley, 33, formerly of Wintersville, made their first appearances after being charged for the murder of Strother, 45, of Cadiz. He was found dead at Sally Buffalo Park on March 28.

Dowdel and Kelley were returned to Ohio on Thursday by Harrison County sheriff’s deputies, after being caught as fugitives in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. They were booked into the Jefferson County Jail.

Approximately 20 family members and friends of Strother gathered in the Common Pleas courtroom to witness the arraignments.

Dowdel was first to go before Judge T. Shawn Hervey, with public defender Adrian Pincola temporarily serving as counsel. Dowdel listened, with an occasional small shake of the head, while Hervey read the charges of murder, felonious assault, complicity to commit murder and complicity to commit felonious assault, and listed the possible sentences for each.

If convicted or murder, Dowdel would face a minimum fifteen year imprisonment with the possibility of life in prison. The felonious assault charge could result in a two-to-eight-year sentence if he is convicted. The same sentences apply to the complicity charges.

The court entered a plea of not guilty on Dowdel’s behalf while counsel determines how to proceed. The prosecution then entered a motion to deny bail, citing a risk to the community. Pincola requested a continuance for the bond hearing, which was set for Tuesday at 11:30. Dowdel was remanded to custody of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and was taken back to Jefferson County Jail.

After a recess, Kelley entered the courtroom initially unaccompanied, though Steubenville attorney Steven Stickles came forward to represent her. There was some confusion over whether Kelley’s hearing could proceed, as she claimed the lawful 24-hour period between seeing the indictment’s charges and undergoing a hearing had not been fulfilled. However, Sheriff Joe Myers stated that Kelley did receive her copy of the indictment as of 5 a.m. Friday morning. She had merely seen the state’s motion to deny bail at 2:30 p.m., causing her misunderstanding.

Kelley was read all the same charges and potential sentencing as Dowdel and Stickles entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf. She will also remain in jail without bond, as she too was cited to pose a risk to the community. Her Tuesday bond hearing will immediately follow Dowdel’s.

The courtroom was mostly quiet throughout the hearings, but as the crowd dispersed outside, one young woman shouted profanities about Kelley. She was calmed by other members of the crowd and the situation did not escalate.