Stanley Rusnak was always a suspect in the murders of three Jefferson County residents 39 years ago, but it took decades of gathering statements from people Rusnak allegedly bragged to to prove the deaths.
Rusnak, 65, of Cleveland, was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury Wednesday on three counts of murder.
Rusnak is believed to have murdered his uncle, James Kelsie Noble, 75, and Noble's sister-in-law and caretaker, Sophie Groch Bell, 52, during a home invasion at Noble's residence on Jefferson County 11 in Piney Fork on April 1, 1975.
Noble was suffering from terminal cancer at the time of his death.
Rusnak also is believed to have murdered Robert Scott, 78, sometime between July 1, 1977, and July 19, 1977. Scott's body has never been found, though authorities at the time did find evidence of a home invasion and homicide at Scott's residence in Rayland.
Rusnak was arrested without incident near his home in Cleveland not long after the indictments were returned.
"There was never any other suspect," Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said.
Abdalla said he interviewed Rusnak on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning after Rusnak waived intrastate extradition to Jefferson County. Abdalla said Rusnak also is a suspect in the murder of a husband and wife in Harrison County in 1978.
Abdalla said he worked with former Harrison County sheriffs Richard Rensi and Mark Miller and current sheriff Ron Myers about that case. Abdalla said the couple had a bar and cashed checks for miners at a nearby coal mine.
Abdalla was assisted in the Jefferson County cases by the Ohio Attorney General's Office and its Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He said BCI agents were able to get some new information on the case, and, coupled with what already had been gathered, the decision was made to present it to the grand jury - which assistant attorney generals from Attorney General Mike DeWine's cold case division did Wednesday.
"What broke this case was the good detective work by local authorities over the years, along with the more recent help of our BCI investigators to assist in uncovering some new evidence," DeWine said. Abdalla said he began working on the murder cases when he became sheriff in 1985.
"I worked on it off and on throughout the years. Something else would come along and I would drop it but came back," he said.
Abdalla said he interviewed Rusnak about 10 years ago, though he still doesn't know the motive for the killings.
Abdalla said he is happy the grand jury returned the murder indictments.
"It was one of my best days of being in law enforcement. It would be a better day if he is found guilty by a jury," Abdalla said.