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Wisconsin man charged with murder in Ohio Turnpike stabbing

The suspect, 51-year-old Thomas Conner, was shot and injured by a Sandusky County Sheriff's deputy after charging at the deputy with a knife.

CLYDE, Ohio — A Wisconsin man was charged with murder Wednesday in what authorities believe was a random knife attack that killed a motorist and injured another after they had stopped at a travel plaza on the Ohio Turnpike. 

The victims, who investigators said were not traveling together, were attacked late Tuesday afternoon in the plaza's parking lot.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Thomas C. Conner, 51, of Beloit, Wisconsin, was shot by a Sandusky County sheriff's deputy during Tuesday's standoff situation after he charged officials with the knife still in his hand.  

The first victim, David S. Diederich, 66, of La Porte, Indiana, died at the scene. A second victim, identified as 53-year-old Alan L. Austin of Delavan, Wisconsin, suffered life-threatening injuries and was transported to an area hospital. However, Austin has since been released. 

Conner will be held in the Sandusky County jail with no bond when he is released from the hospital.

Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton said he's requested the Ohio BCI to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deputy's shooting of Conner.

The deputy who shot Conner is 39-year-old Evan Ely, a 15-year law enforcement veteran who's been with the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office since May. He's on paid administrative leave pending the BCI investigation. 

Ely approached Conner and repeatedly told him to drop the knife and then used a less than lethal weapon on him, shooting him multiple times with it.

Ely shot Conner twice after he came at him, hitting him near the waist and hip, according to Hilton. He was flown to a hospital in Toledo where he remains.

Investigators said they don't know what led to the stabbing and they haven't found any evidence suggesting Conner knew either of the victims.

Diederich was in the parking lot when he was stabbed. He died at the scene, according to Hilton.

Austin was in his work van with the window down and was eating when he was attacked. He said Conner approached him and made a stabbing motion to his chest. Austin initially thought he had been punched until he saw the blood.

Austin got out of the van and ran to some nearby EMTs who happened to be there, Hilton said.

Diederich and Austin were not together, according to Hilton.

It's unknown whether Conner was under the influence of any substances.

Hilton said it's also unknown why Conner was at the plaza or what the reason was for the attack. 

Though both Conner and stabbing victim Austin were from Wisconsin, there is no immediate connection, though they live 25 minutes apart.

Conner drove a car to the plaza and it's being processed as part of the investigation.

Hinton said he has never in his experience seen anything like this at a turnpike travel plaza. 

"The randomness is, as you said, terrifying. Generally, the service plazas are very safe areas. I don't think any of these victims could have avoided this," he said.

A search of Wisconsin court records shows that Conner recently had a court appearance on Oct. 12 and was awaiting trial on disorderly conduct and domestic violence charges.

In 2007, Conner was found guilty of possessing THC. That case originally had an intentional homicide charge, which was dismissed.

In 1995, he pleaded guilty to armed robbery and went to prison. That originally included attempted murder, which was dismissed.

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