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Sheriff: Two Arrests Made in Barnesville Murder/Kidnapping

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ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas reported two more arrests in connection with the November murder of Norma Matko of Bellaire and the abduction of her daughter, Nicole Bronowski.

Belmont County deputies assisted in an investigation leading to the arrests of Andrew Welch, 28, and Lester Foster, 27, both of Cleveland. The two men were indicted on two counts of kidnapping and one count of tampering with evidence. They are now being held on bonds of $100,000 in the Cuyahoga County Jail.

With these arrests, Lucas said he believes this concludes the investigation into people involved in the “conspiracy.”

Cleveland law enforcement became involved in the homicide case when Matko’s car was found burned in that city. Bronowski was reported missing to the Cuyahoga Calls Police Department. Cleveland detectives and Belmont County law enforcement traveled to a site in Louisiana where the suspect, James Hawley, was killed in a gunfight with FBI agents. Bronowski was not harmed and is safe with her family.

It is believed Welch and Foster aided in the kidnapping, provided Hawley alternate identification, and disposed of evidence.

“Our detectives and the Cleveland detectives knew there was more people involved, how the vehicle was found,” Lucas said. “Them working together, they was able to piece it together and get an arrest warrant and arrest these two individuals.”

Lucas said law enforcement believes Hawley sought help from two associates known to him.

“Just knowing each other…their background in the criminal element in the past,” Lucas said. “They’ve had a history together, so (Hawley) got these people to assist him in getting rid of the evidence and the kidnapping.”

Lucas said the kidnapping allegedly occurred in Cleveland.

“The mother went up there, and from there, incidents happened. (They) were brought back to Belmont County and the murder happened at the residence in Barnesville,” Lucas said. “The relationship that was between the … deceased murderer and the daughter had a prior relationship.”

Lucas said law enforcement believes Matko was visiting her daughter when the abduction took place.

“Wrong place, wrong time,” Belmont County Chief Detective Ryan Allar said.

“She being assaulted and stuff like that, then the mother shows up, it just goes from there,” Lucas said. “It started in Cleveland, and because the mother showed up, it expedited from there, from Cleveland down to Belmont County.”

Lucas said the Cleveland and Cuyahoga Falls police, FBI and Belmont County deputies including Allar and Det. Doug Cruse worked together to follow all leads in the investigation.

“It was nothing but good police work, boots to the ground,” Lucas said. “It just all came together.”

Lucas and Allar did not speculate whether the pair might face charges in Belmont County.

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