Man escapes murder charge for Christmas Day killing

Man escapes murder charge for Christmas Day killing

by Craig Lovelace

CIRCLEVILLE — The man accused in the brutal killing of a Columbus man, whose mutilated body was found on Christmas Day in Walnut Township, escaped the most serious of charges leveled against him when a jury Wednesday could not render verdicts on a single count of murder and two counts of felonious assault.

Bobby White, 43, for the immediate future, will remain in the Pickaway County Jail awaiting a presentence report that will address a charge of aggravated possession of drugs that carries a maximum prison sentence of three years and the sole guilty verdict the jury handed down.

The dead body of Douglas Michael Buechler, 33, was discovered Christmas Day on a Winchester Road property whose owners called law enforcement authorities upon finding it by an old garage.

The jury deliberated the case for about three hours on Tuesday but were sent home around 5:30 p.m. They picked up those deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and returned their answers around noon.

White can be retried on the murder and felonious assault charges.

“The jury realized that there were so many questions that weren’t answered,” said Steve Larson, White’s attorney who added that 11 jurors voted not guilty on the murder charge.

Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford said they knew going into the trial that there were hurdles.

“We knew there were going to be issues because there are no eye-witnesses, there’s no confession,” she said.

The verdicts followed testimony Tuesday by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, detectives, jail inmates, and acquaintances of the defendant. The testimony even included discussion about a toe with a severe fungal infection.

White was arrested in Ashville on Dec. 27 driving Buechler’s car, and two days after his body was found. He had been driving the vehicle for several days as Buechler was in the Franklin County jail on an outstanding warrant and released Christmas Day.

Prosecutors aren’t fully sure how or why the car got released to White.

Buechler had been stabbed by a sharp instrument 36 times and his neck had been sliced. Authorities testified there was a struggle. Two dogs Buechler owned and adored were found by the couple on whose property the crime occurred.

Pickaway County Sheriff Office detectives were led to White after learning Buechler’s identity from documents found while the murder scene was processed. White’s drug conviction was based on the methamphetamine­ – that exceeded three grams – found during a search of the vehicle.

However, it was never established how Buechler got to the Winchester Road garage and with whom he may have fought. There is DNA blood evidence taken from items in the car, but none of them point toward White conclusively as the contributor, according to a lab specialist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Instead, the she testified that blood samples on a knife handle and the blade created a profile consistent with White, adding that other items had mixtures of blood and thus could not be narrowed down to a single person. 

County prosecutors told the jury as much in opening statements and said that they were not charged with proving the motive behind the crimes White allegedly committed.

Attorney Larson put it more bluntly: “The state won’t be able to put who was at the scene.”

Indeed.

Buechler was stabbed 36 times with a sharp instrument, Pickaway County Coroner John Ellis testified Monday. However, no weapon has been found and identified as the murder weapon.

Tuesday’s testimony included dueling jail inmates who offered up accounts that either incriminated White or cast aspersions toward others.

Sam Williams was in jail on a contempt charge and in the cell next to White’s, and the men conversed regularly. Williams, talking with Sheriff’s Detective Rex Emrick, said one day he found the man sobbing and asked if he could help in any way, especially since he was scheduled to get out of jail for medical reasons including an infected toe where a fungus had made the nail super thick.

Williams testified that White wanted him to “drop some dirt on the prosecutor,” and say that he saw the accused drop somebody off in Circleville,” which is what the defendant told police he did Dec. 25. White said Buechler and the dogs got out of the car near Cristy’s Pizza on South Court Street and headed toward the railroad tracks. It was the last time White said he saw Buechler.

Another jail inmate told prosecutors that he watched Williams pull off a toenail so he could get released for medical reasons.

Prosecutors also were rebuffed when Larson objected to what he called hearsay that they were trying to get on the record in testimony by Emrick. Pickaway County Judge P. Randall Knece agreed with the defense attorney.

The girlfriend, Sarah, was the reason for the trip from Columbus to Circleville Christmas Day. She and Buechler were once involved and he wanted to see her, according to an interview White gave detectives.

At the end of the trial, several jurors spoke with prosecutors about the case and what they thought about it.

Wanda Davis of Orient said two questions that were prominent were the absence of the girlfriend’s testimony and whether someone other than White could have killed Buechler.

Another said she wasn’t sure how Buechler and White knew each other.

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