In the past two months, two bodies have been dumped on the side of the road in a wooded, industrial area of New Franklin, just across the Barberton line.

Both bodies belong to local women with reports or admissions of drug use, though detectives working the case say that's the extent of their connection. Both were found on a Sunday.

Both deaths are being investigated as homicides — and murder charges were filed Monday in one of the cases.

The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office positively identified the latest body, found this past Sunday, as that of 18-year-old Samantha Guthrie, who disappeared Nov. 4 and was discovered on the east side of Rex Hill Road, about a quarter-mile north of Vanderhoof Road.

The single gunshot wound in Guthrie’s head matches the story given to police by three of the last four people thought to have been with her the day she disappeared. All four have been arrested and charged with tampering with evidence or moving a corpse, in relation to the suspected murder.

With the discovery of Guthrie's body, Akron prosecutors have charged Danny Hamby, 39, of Springfield Township, and Toni Kenney, 31, of Warren, with murder. Each remains in the Summit County Jail.

"Detectives are not naming which one, Danny Hamby or Toni Keeney, actually fired the shot that killed Samantha Guthrie," said Akron Police Lt. Rick Edwards. "This is still an active investigation at this time."

Among the four arrested in the Guthrie case, only Hamby did not cooperate in the investigation, according to authorities and court records. The other three — Kenney and William Eugene Alexander, 38, and Dylan Brown, 19, both from Akron — told investigators that Guthrie was shot at a house on Lillian Road south of downtown Akron. The three reportedly told police that they helped load the body into a car trunk, and that Hamby drove with Alexander to dispose of the body in a wooded area.

The search for that wooded area ended Sunday morning. Guthrie was found in her clothes not far from the road, the medical examiner said. She was discovered near the woods on the south end of Rex Hill Road, near farm fields and thick woods.

At the opposite corner of the wooded block, the charred body of Kerri Blondheim, 43, was found Sept. 23 on South Van Buren Avenue, about 20 feet inside the New Franklin township line. A detective from New Franklin visited the coroner a couple weeks ago to inquire about the active homicide investigation.

Akron police are investigating Guthrie's suspected murder in the city while a New Franklin detective, who was not available to comment Monday, is investigating what happened to both women dumped in his jurisdiction.

Blondheim’s body was laid on a mattress then set on fire and left in the gravel by a chain link fence. Gary Guenther, an investigator with the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, said her case was ruled a homicide with “blunt force trauma to the head and neck mixed … [and] strangled.”

 

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter.