Sheriff: Possible New Task Force Could Help Solve Llama Farmer’s Murder


UPDATED: Thursday November 1, 2012 6:40 PM

After five months in office, the new Delaware County Sheriff says he wants to make cases from the past a priority.

According to Sheriff Russ Martin, the county has eight unsolved homicides dating back to the mid 1970s.

Martin said that he plans to propose a new county-wide task force to focus on cold cases with other law enforcement jurisdictions within Delaware County.

“I’m a firm believer that there’s wisdom in the council of many,” Martin said. “If we can get more detectives putting eyes on these cases, maybe someone will see something that we’ve overlooked in the past, and I think that’s a good practice.”

One cold case the department wants to focus on is the murder of 60-year-old Eveline Ashbaugh. She was found stabbed to death in her bedroom on May 5, 2007.

The crime scene first appeared as though it was a burglary gone wrong. A ladder was propped up to the second floor, and a bedroom window screen was slashed open.

“It was a very brutal crime scene,” said Det. Rusty Yates. “She was stabbed multiple times.”

Autopsy reports showed that Ashbaugh was stabbed up to 10 times in the upper torso.

Now, for the first time since her murder, detectives revealed that the woman, who raised llamas on her farm, did not show any signs of fighting back.

“It’s pretty evident that she was asleep or lying in bed when she was attacked and unable to defend herself,” Yates said.

Ashbaugh’s farmhand alerted emergency officials to the scene the morning after the woman’s murder.

“When I got to the bedroom and the drawers had been ransacked in her dresser, I had her girlfriend on the phone with me, because I told her, ‘You have to stay on the phone with me while I’m walking through here,’” the farmhand told the 911 dispatcher five years ago.

Yates said that the initial theory was that a stranger broke into the woman’s home on Buttermilk Hill Road and climbed up the ladder.

That theory is now one of many possible theories, Yates said. He said that the ladder could have been a smokescreen to throw off detectives.

“It would be the obvious conclusion, but there were other possible methods of entry for the home,” Yates said. “I believe the person that did this was someone who knows her.”

Yates said that Ashbaugh was well known in the llama community and was known to be eccentric.

He would not say if he believed her business had anything to do with her murder, but said that investigators believe they may have interviewed the possible killer during the initial investigation.

“I believe we have spoken to someone who does know something about this crime,” Yates said.

Yates now is reviewing old witness lists and is re-submitting old evidence, given the advances in DNA.

“It’s a crime scene transfer theory,” Yates said. “When you enter a room, you leave something. There’s DNA throughout the crime scene.”

Detectives said that they never found a murder weapon but is banking on DNA advances and the possibility that someone could step forward with information five years later.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Delaware County Sheriff's Office at 740-833-2830.

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