Stanley Rusnak, 65, of Cleveland, charged with murder in connection with two cold cases, entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment Wednesday in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.
Rusnak was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury Aug. 6 on three counts of murder.
He 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 County Road 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 Aug. 6 without incident near his home in Cleveland not long after the indictments were returned. His court-appointed attorney is Aaron Miller.
Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. didn't set a bond for Rusnak, though Miller may file a motion later to set a bond.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla had investigated the cases since he became sheriff in 1985. He received help in the investigation from the Ohio Attorney General's Office and its Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The sheriff said BCI agents were able to get new information on the case. Assistant attorney generals in Attorney General Mike DeWine's cold-case division presented the information to the grand jury last week.
"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. "Despite the amount of time that has passed, this suspect will be held accountable for his actions."
Abdalla said he also worked with Cleveland police and the FBI office in Cleveland during the investigation.
The sheriff said Rusnak also is a suspect in the 1978 murder of a husband and wife in Harrison County.