BARBERTON: Within 48 hours of the slayings of two Barberton teens, police detectives already were closing in on a prime suspect.
The swiftness of their investigation is spelled out in vivid detail in a search warrant affidavit released Wednesday that alleges GPS surveillance places triple-murder suspect Eric Donta Hendon at the scene of the New Year’s Eve shootings.
Barberton police Detective Lt. Brian Jamison wrote in the Jan. 2 affidavit that the department’s focus on Hendon, a paroled violent sex offender living in Akron, began soon after news accounts of the vicious home invasion slaying caught the attention of an Oriana House GPS monitoring program manager.
The Dec. 31 shootings left teenage siblings Ashley Carpenter, 18, and David Carpenter-Kohler, 14, dead from gunshot wounds to the head.
Their father, John Kohler, and his girlfriend, Ronda Blankenship, were left critically wounded and clinging to life.
Kohler, 42, was removed from life support Friday. Blankenship, 38, remains hospitalized.
On the same day Kohler died, police announced the arrests of Hendon, 31, and his younger brother, Michael Deon Hendon, 22. Each is charged with three counts of aggravated murder.
The men pleaded not guilty Wednesday during a brief hearing in Barberton Municipal Court. Their respective attorneys, Walter Benson and Donald Hicks, declined comment afterward.
Benson made no immediate motion to lower Eric Hendon’s $10 million bond. Hicks, citing Michael Hendon’s lack of a felony record, asked Judge David Fish to lower his client’s $10 million bond.
Assistant City Prosecutor Holly Reese successfully argued against the request, citing the “severity” of the charges.
More charges, including a potential death penalty specification, will be considered when a Summit County grand jury reviews the Barberton police investigation Jan. 16.
An arraignment hearing in common pleas court tentatively is set for Jan. 24.
Eric Hendon was released from prison in June after finishing a 13-year sentence for shooting a woman in the vagina. He was 17 at the time of the shooting but was tried as an adult and eventually pleaded guilty to attempted murder.
After returning to Akron from prison, he remained under the supervision of an Ohio parole officer. As part of his parole requirements, Hendon wore a GPS ankle bracelet so his movements could be tracked by the Oriana House’s electronic monitoring program.
Barberton police have released few details of the slaying. The search warrant affidavit, however, reveals insights into their work in the days following the shooting and the role GPS played in leading them to arrest the Hendons.
Less than 48 hours after the bodies were found inside John Kohler’s home on Seventh Street Northeast, Oriana House officials contacted Eric Hendon’s parole officer, who in turn called Barberton police detectives.
Police contend the GPS tracking system linked to Eric Hendon’s ankle bracelet placed him “in the immediate area” of Kohler’s home for six minutes starting at 6:42 p.m. Dec. 31.
About 6:50 p.m., a seriously wounded Blankenship was calling 911, telling an operator that two men had shot people in her house.
The affidavit also says that GPS records show Eric Hendon was back at his mother’s home on Fawler Avenue in Akron by 7:43 p.m. and remained there until 8:54 p.m., when he returned to Barberton and visited a friend on Sixth Street Northeast.
In addition to the GPS records, police say Hendon’s parole officer searched his Fawler Avenue bedroom and found blue jeans containing a “small red stain, possibly blood, on the thigh area.”
Around the same time, police Detective Matthew Hudak interviewed Michael Hendon, who said his brother — sometime after 6:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve — “went to Johnny [Kohler’s] home to purchase marijuana.”
Last week, police said only that they suspected Kohler was targeted in the robbery-shooting for drugs and money. The police affidavit contends that Kohler was “known to sell marijuana from his residence.”
Kohler, however, had never been arrested for drug trafficking.
Ashley Carpenter, a senior at Barberton, and her brother, an eighth-grader, lived with their mother in another area of Barberton and only were visiting Kohler for the New Year’s holiday. Their funeral was held Wednesday night.
Hunt for evidence
The police affidavit seeking a court order to enter Hendon’s home in Akron states that detectives were in search of evidence that included: a 25-caliber handgun; Winchester .25-caliber bullets; marijuana; money, including rolled coins in wrappers; and potentially blood-stained clothing and shoes, including the blue jeans seen by Hendon’s parole officer.
Akron Municipal Judge Joy Malek Oldfield approved the Jan. 2 search at 6:22 p.m. and police entered the residence about 30 minutes later.
They collected clothing, including a pair of Levi’s jeans, a green washcloth, a cellphone and memory card, a black jacket, a small cigar with marijuana and a single bullet found on a bathroom rug near a toilet, records show.
Eric Hendon was booked into the Summit County Jail on Jan. 2, just before 4 p.m., according to jail records. Michael Hendon entered the jail two days later.
Bernie Rochford, Oriana’s executive vice president of administration, while not commenting directly on the Hendon investigation, said that whenever staff learn of a violent crime, location checks on monitored defendants routinely are made using the agency’s Internet-based GPS system.
“It has been effective in some cases in eliminating suspects as well as implicating them,” he said. “It’s a tool. It’s technology. It’s not perfect 100 percent of the time, but it’s pretty darn accurate.”