A veteran state trooper says that when he picked up two Columbus murder suspects walking along a Madison County freeway and gave them a ride one night in late July, he assessed them to be "just two decent guys."
Now, he knows better.
For his actions that night, Jeff Shane has been stripped of his rank of sergeant at the West Jefferson patrol post and demoted to a trooper on road patrol in Chillicothe.
That's a hefty pay cut for the 29-year veteran of the patrol, though the agency couldn't provide exact salary figures.
The details of what happened along I-70 in Madison County just after 2 a.m. July 27 became clearer when the State Highway Patrol released its final internal-investigation report yesterday.
Shane, 54, picked up Nathaniel Brunner and Devonere Simmonds, who were walking along the freeway after their car -- which already had been entered into Ohio's computer system as stolen and linked to the two wanted teens -- ran out of gas.
Shane dropped them off at the TravelCenters of America truck stop without getting their names or patting them down for weapons, both violations of patrol policy.
A couple of hours later, police say, the pair shot a man getting gas at the truck stop and stole his car, acts that turned out to be the last in a weeklong string of violence for which they've since been charged.
Also disciplined for his actions that night was West Jefferson patrol post dispatcher Matthew Prachar.
When Shane relayed the license plate of the pair's abandoned car, Prachar entered one wrong letter into the system, failing to trigger a warning about the suspects.
Prachar, 26, was given a one-day suspension, though he won't have to serve it as long as he keeps his record clean for two years.
Staff Lt. Anne Ralston, patrol spokeswoman, said the discipline for both is in line with what were serious mistakes that had serious consequences. "This has been just tragic for everyone involved," Ralston said.
The man shot at the truck stop, 39-year-old William Joseph Rudd, who was passing through on his way home to Virginia, survived.
Simmonds, 17, and Brunner, 18, were arrested a few hours later in Dayton.
Both now face a variety of charges related to Rudd's shooting and for the slayings of three Columbus men in the week preceding the Madison County attack.
Shane told patrol investigators that when he spotted the teens that night and pulled his cruiser alongside, he could see their hands. He didn't see any weapons so he told them to get in the back.
The truck stop was only "a stone's throw away," Shane said, so he was unconcerned. And he said the boys weren't at all suspicious: "I mean, they weren't scared, weren't anxious, they weren't trying to avoid talking to me or anything."
One of them did tell Shane, unprompted, that they hadn't done anything wrong. He told investigators that raised no red flags for him.
Shane dropped them off at the truck stop at 2:17 a.m. Store surveillance shows the two roamed around for a long while.
At 4:55 a.m., the 911 calls came in that Rudd had been shot.
Shane told investigators that he was back at the West Jefferson post later that morning when he heard about the shooting at the truck stop. When someone suggested it might have been the two teens he had earlier given a ride, he said his reaction was, "No, it couldn't have been. They seemed like two down-on-their luck kids that just ran out of gas."
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