COLUMBIANA COUNTY Investigation continues into '99 slaying
Individuals continue to be called to testify before county grand juries.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- It's been two years since Leetonia businessman Richard Altomare was found shot to death, and his killing remains unsolved.
But the crime is still being pursued, says Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron.
"It's important that you keep pursuing it, and that's what we intend to do," Herron said Friday.
In the two years since Altomare, 59, was killed, prosecutors have called nearly 20 people to testify before county grand juries in an effort to learn more about the slaying.
"Every time we talk to somebody, we're given a new direction to pursue," Herron said.
"We have a suspect. But we aren't focusing all our attention on that one person," he added. "We believe there are other people involved."
Herron refused to describe the firearm used in the crime or to say how many times Altomare, who owned Altomare's Welding in Leetonia, was shot.
Found in vacant school: Altomare was found dead Sept. 19, 1999, in a vacant school he owned along Fairfield School Road in Fairfield Township.
Herron reiterated a previous statement that the motive for the killing was greed and that he was killed by someone he knew. But he refused to say more.
His handling of the case has been criticized by some Altomare family members.
In August 2000, Altomare's son, Richard Jr. of Salem, called on Herron to remove himself from the case, accusing him of failing to pursue key evidence in the crime.
Herron defends his handling of the probe.
Sued for records: Richard Altomare Jr. filed a lawsuit in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court in April, asking the court to order Herron to surrender all records he has on Altomare Sr.
Herron has said the records are part of the criminal investigation and do not qualify for release under Ohio's Public Records Act.
Atty. Robert Guehl of Salem, representing Altomare Jr., has argued that some of the records may qualify as public and should be made available.
Judge C. Ashley Pike will review the records and determine which, if any, may be released.
Guehl said the Altomare family is trying to cope with Altomare's death and the questions surrounding it.
"It's like any other tragic situation," Guehl said. "There's grief, there's anger and there's healing. They're hoping to get into the healing process."