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Greene County and Montgomery County Coroners recently released the names of the man and woman found dead just west of Yellow Springs. (Photo by Diane Chiddister)

Police were called to the scene Sunday, Jan. 15, to investigate the shooting deaths of a man and a woman on East Enon Road, just west of Yellow Springs. The victims were later revealed to be Yellow Springs residents William “Skip” Brown, 44, and Sherri Mendenhall, 63. The murder case remains unsolved. (Photo by Diane Chiddister)

Double homicide shocks village

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The Yellow Springs community faced the most difficult of tragedies beginning on Sunday afternoon, when two local residents were discovered at a duplex located at 4444 East Enon Road, dead of apparent gunshot wounds. 

On Sunday, at approximately 3 p.m., a jogger saw a female lying inert in the driveway and called police. Responding law enforcement agencies soon found a male victim inside the home. The deaths are being investigated as a double homicide.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office has set up a tip line for any information about the murders of Brown and Mendenhall. Anyone with any information, “no matter how trivial,” according to authorities, is encouraged to call and leave a message at 937-562-4819.
There has been a “tremendous re­sponse” to the tip line so far, Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that investigators will “aggressively pursue” any tip they get.

The victims were identified on Monday as William “Skip” Brown, 44, and Sherri Mendenhall, 63, both of Yellow Springs. Brown and Mendenhall lived on either side of the duplex. 

About 17 Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, agents and sheriff’s department detectives are investigating the crime, according to Attorney General Mike DeWine in an interview Tuesday. The crime scene remains, at this time, under the control of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are still early into this investigation but we are working aggressively with the help of Ohio BCI on finding whoever is responsible for these murders,” according to a statement released by the Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

Despite the significant manpower on the scene, authorities are not divulging much information about the crime. In a phone interview on Tuesday, Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said he could not speculate on motivations for the homicides, and said that the department does not currently have a person of interest in the case. BCI agents were in the village this week talking to people in coffee shops and on the street to gather information.

“We’re asking for the public’s help in figuring out why this happened,” Fischer said Tuesday morning. “People don’t normally just go up and kill someone. Did they have someone mad at them, any enemies?”

Fischer said in a press conference in Xenia on Wednesday afternoon that Brown appeared to have been targeted. Brown was shot multiple times, while Mendenhall was shot once, apparently several hours before the jogger’s report.

The Sheriff’s department declined to answer further questions about the number of people involved in the crime, if a weapon was recovered, or what a possible motive may be.

“I understand the frustration [of not having the information],” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told the News this week. “Any time there’s a murder, especially in a small community, there’s a strong desire to know about the case. But the ultimate objective is to have a case that can be successfully prosecuted in court, and we’ve got to be careful with what we say.”

“Really, we don’t want the perpetrator to know what we know,” he added.

The family members of the victims have not been informed about evidence or possible motives.

“[The police] have got their job to do, but we want to know answers to the same questions,” said David Brown, Skip’s brother, in an interview this week.

In response to questions about the safety of Yellow Springs residents, DeWine said that nothing about the crime scene leads investigators to believe that there is a threat to area residents. Fischer said at Wednesday’s press conference that the nature of the killings leads investigators to believe that the shooting was not random, though he would not go into more detail about why Brown may have been the intended victim. 

Authorities acknowledged that the perpetrator is still at large.

According to YSPD Sergeant Naomi Watson, local officers Allison Saurber and Brian Carlson were the first to respond to the call on Sunday. While the duplex features a Yellow Springs address, the home is actually outside of YSPD jurisdiction. The officers contacted the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, which does have jurisdiction in that area. The Sheriff in turn called the BCI, a state organization operating under the aegis of the Office of the State Attorney General. A state crime lab unit was dispatched to the scene from London, Ohio.

The BCI doesn’t respond to all crime scenes but typically assists jurisdictions that may not have the resources necessary for such an investigation. According to the BCI’s website, the Bureau’s services are available at no cost to the jurisdiction it is assisting. 

“The BCI will stay involved for as long as it takes,” said DeWine.

Officers did not enter the duplex until a search warrant was signed by a judge and delivered to the scene, which occurred late Sunday night.

YSPD officers assisted with the scene as the investigation got underway, keeping the East Enon Road closed to traffic. The local officers were relieved of their duties as more officers arrived from the sheriff’s department.

At a small press conference at the scene on Sunday evening, authorities said that a technology unit of the BCI was involved to process the computer and video equipment found in the duplex.

Processing the crime scene is a slow, meticulous process, DeWine said, though Fischer noted at the Wednesday press conference that “several items of evidence were gathered” and taken from the scene for forensic examination.

Given the nature of the crime, the public is “realistically not going to get much information in this case until an arrest is made,” DeWine said.

Fischer said another press conference will likely be held on Monday to update the public on the progress of the case.

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