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Man, woman found dead in wildlife area in Ashtabula County Sunday

Homicide-suicide suspected, OSHP says
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Posted at 10:28 AM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 18:43:52-04

ASHTABULA COUNTY, Ohio — The bodies of a 34-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman were found in the New Lyme Wildlife Area in Ashtabula County Sunday in what Ohio State Highway Patrol investigators suspect was a homicide-suicide.

Monday afternoon, Ashtabula County Prosecutor Colleen O'Toole confirmed the 34-year-old was out of jail, awaiting trial on charges he allegedly raped a child.

Court records show the Orwell man, Wesley Thomas, was arrested June 14 after he was indicted on rape charges.

The Ashtabula County Sheriff's Department confirmed Thomas was released from jail Aug. 19, the day after a judge reduced his bond and allowed him to sign himself out of jail on personal recognizance.

Among the conditions of the bond, court records show Thomas was supposed to not leave his sister's apartment, wear a GPS monitor and was not allowed to have contact with the 31-year-old woman whose body was discovered near Thomas's.

On Sunday morning, the OSHP's Warren District Office of Criminal Investigations was notified of an incident initially reported at about 8:20 a.m. by a passerby who observed two bodies lying on the ground next to a minivan in the wildlife area, located about 13 miles south of Jefferson, according to a news release from OSHP.

When troopers arrived, a firearm was located, and each body appeared to have a gunshot wound, OSHP stated.

Homicide-suicide is suspected, and the investigation is ongoing at this time, OSHP said.

Troopers have not said which of the two people investigators believe fired the gun.

Because of the alleged rape victim was a family member, we are not using the woman's name.

Monday afternoon, O'Toole said arrangements like the one that allowed Thomas to get out of jail were not usual.

She said the 34-year-old had no prior criminal history, and that a risk assessment used by the court found he was unlikely to re-offend if released.

"He did not have access to the victim," said O'Toole. "She was taken from the custody in early April with children's services when the allegations first arose, so he had no access to the the victim."

O'Toole said once the investigation into the deaths concludes, her office will conduct a "deep dive" into how Thomas's case was handled.

"We look at the children's services files, we look at whatever files and say you know, is there a possibility some of this could have been avoided?" said O'Toole.

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