Dayton Daily News

Life sentence upheld by state Supreme Court

Gallia farmhand convicted of killing, raping woman.

- MichaelJoh­nson Gallipolis Daily Tribune

The Ohio Supreme Court has denied a Gallia County man an appeal for his 2012 murder conviction.

Lee A. Hawkins, 50, of Bidwell, is currently being held in the Ross Correction­al Institutio­n in Chillicoth­e, where he is serving a life sentence without the possibilit­y of parole after being found guilty by a jury in October 2012 of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and the gross abuse of a corpse.

Hawkins was arrested March 13, 2012, after he was identified as suspect in the murder of Betsy Ball, 67, of Morgan Twp., on Feb. 29, 2012.

The defendant killed Ball at her home on Wilder Road home, then raped, mutilated and dumped her body at a nearby farm along Piper Road, about six miles from her home.

Hawkins reportedly had known Betsy Ball and her husband, David, for about 20 years and had been occasional­ly employed as a farmhand by them during that time.

Betsy Ball was reported missing by her family during the early morning hours of March 1, and her body was later found by law enforcemen­t officials where it had been dumped in a field on Piper Road. The coroner’s report states Ball died primarily of strangulat­ion.

Hawkins, who pleaded not guilty on March 19, 2012, and maintained his innocence throughout his six-day trial, was found guilty on Oct. 9, 2012, of murdering Ball.

During sentencing one week later, Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans handed down a life sentence without parole eligibilit­y for the charge of aggravated murder, and a 36month sentence for tampering with evidence.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals, in March 2014, heard Hawkins’ appeal and upheld his life sentence. Hawkins, in his appeal, maintained that the trial court had abused its discretion when it sentenced him because he had “lived a primarily lawabiding life,” is a “quiet, hard-working, decent person” and that his actions against the victim were “an aberration from his normal, quiet self.”

Hawkins’ appeal also questioned whether he was deprived of his constituti­onal right of effective assistance of counsel, as well as whether he is indigent and can pay court costs. The Ohio Supreme Court also concurred.

Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins praised the state Supreme Court’s decision, and thanked the Ball family, Gallia County Sheriff, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigat­ion, and Assistant Prosecutor­s Eric Mulford and Britt Wiseman “for their efforts in Hawkins’ initial conviction, as well as ensuring that his life sentence was upheld on appeal.”

Mulford and Wiseman released joint statement:

“We are extremely pleased that the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected the baseless appeal put forward on behalf of the Defendant. The Ball family deserves finality and they deserve the peace of mind that this case is closed, with the Defendant serving the remainder of his life in prison. Our office remains committed to fighting on behalf of victims and their families throughout all phases of prosecutio­n including trial and the appellate process.”

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