South Found Guilty in Ott Murder (W/VIDEO)
May 2, 2016

Prosecutors Moving Forward with Cases Against Rosebrook Brothers

South convicted of murdering Daniel Ott of Burton Township. Watch video of Judge Burt's rationale for conviction.

Chad South, 46, was found guilty Monday morning of the 2006 murder of Daniel Ott, 31, in his Burton Township home.

South, of Moraine, was also found guilty of kidnapping both Ott and his then-girlfriend, Maryann Ricker.

Following his nearly four-day bench trial last week, South was noticeably nervous Monday morning, his right hand in a fist, shaking as Burt began talking about the various pieces of evidence and testimonies in the case.

Ott’s family — parents Leroy and Linda Ott, of Vermillion, and sister and brother-in-law, Kim and Rick Huffman, of Huron — sat quietly behind South, showing tears only when Burt read the guilty verdict.

“We’re so happy about justice,” an emotional Leroy said afterward. “That it’s done for Dan.”

Prosecutors alleged 60-year-old Joseph Rosebrook, of Florida, hired South to kill Daniel C. Ott, a convicted car thief and reputed Rosebrook associate, in retaliation for his role in convicting Rosebrook of attempted murder for hire in 2005.

But instead of killing Daniel C. Ott — who has never lived in Geauga County and would have been around 70 years old in 2006 — South invaded the Geauga County home of 31-year-old Daniel E. Ott and murdered him.

South, Rosebrook and his 57-year-old brother, Carl “Jeff” Rosebrook — the alleged moneyman responsible for paying South — were named in a five-count indictment filed June 10, 2015, and charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, aggravated murder with prior calculation and design, aggravated murder during the commission of aggravated burglary, and the kidnapping of both Daniel E. Ott and Ricker.

“Without hesitation, the court must say that the investigation was comprehensive and extremely competent,” Burt said Monday morning, referring to prior accusations of government misconduct raised by Geauga County Public Defender R. Robert Umholtz. “I cannot think of any other case that has come before this court in which the investigating officers have been as diligent and thorough as in this case. I do not agree with the assertion that the investigators arrived at one theory and only saw evidence that supported that theory. A number of theories were considered and myriad of leads were followed as the investigation proceeded.”

Burt prefaced his verdict by listing key testimonies of the trial and whether he found them to have value in his decision.

“The testimony of Maryann Ricker was chilling, but certainly credible. I cannot imagine the terror that she felt the morning of May 26, 2006, and the tremendous grief at the loss of the man she loved. I must admire the strength she showed at coming to the court and describing the events of that night,” Burt said. “Retired (Logan County Sheriff’s Office) Detective Keith LeVan’s testimony was enlightening. Detective LeVan provided the necessary background information to establish a context for the testimony of Richard Carter. It was clear to the court that Detective LeVan was cooperative with the Geauga County investigators, but that he was primarily a conduit of the information being provided by others.”

Burt said, however, the testimony of Eli Yoder, an Amish construction worker who lives in Burton Township, was of “limited value.”

Neither South’s employer at the time, Charles Jason Harvey, nor another co-worker of South’s could provide a sound alibi that he was at work the morning of the murder, Burt continued.

“In a similar vein, the evidence that Mr. South may not have appeared in court on May 26, 2006, does not establish that he was in Northeast Ohio on that date,” Burt said.

He also brought up the testimonies of two jailhouse informants who testified South had admitted to killing Dan Ott.

“The credibility of both witnesses is suspect. Both are felons, recently convicted or found guilty of crimes of dishonesty,” he said, adding although both denied receiving any special favors or consideration, it is noted that one of the informant’s sentencing hearing has been inexplicably continued for more than eight months and the other informant is in a position to seek judicial release from his prison commitment.

“Both informants were confined with South after he had been indicted in this matter and both claim that despite the short amount of time they were with him, South fully confessed to them. It is difficult to give much weight to such testimony,” Burt said.

However, Richard Carter, who was an inmate with South at London Correctional Institution, did bring leverage to the prosecution’s allegations.

While he is a career criminal who made some statements that were inconsistent with other testimonies, Carter did say he was only stating what South had told him at the time, Burt said.

Carter was also consistent in his testimony that South told him he had been hired to kill Dan Ott, Burt said, proceeding to summarize Carter’s statement.

“He had went into a house in the early morning hours on May 26, 2006, to kill Dan Ott. He discovered that the man in the house was named Dan Ott, but that he was too young to be the man South had been hired to kill,” Burt continued. “He was trying to leave the house when Dan Ott came at him with something in his hand. He shot Dan Ott with a shotgun that he had brought into the house. He was covered in blood and went out to the car he had driven to the house. A young lady, a drug addict who was with him, vomited on the rear seat of the car when she saw the blood. While leaving the scene, he struck something with the car and dented it.

“The state has not provided this court with any physical or scientific evidence that corroborates Mr. Carter’s testimony,” Burt said, adding, however, “the state has provided some limited evidence that supports some of Mr. Carter’s testimony.”

In addition, Burt said the court could not find any particular bias on the part of Carter or any evidence that he has received any special favors or considerations in return for his testimony.

“There is no evidence that he has been compensated for his testimony in this trial,” Burt said. “There is no evidence the Mr. Carter has any reason to set up or seek the conviction of Chad South for the crimes charged in the indictment or for any reason. While it is difficult to accept that Richard Carter has come forward to testify because he is a good citizen, the court is unaware of any evidence or reasonable inference that Mr. Carter has perjured himself with his testimony in this case.”

South pumped his fist in momentary relief when Burt said he was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and aggravated murder.

His face grew grim, however, when Burt told South he found him guilty of the lesser charge of murder, which included a firearm specification, and found him guilty of two counts of kidnapping with firearm specifications.

The murder conviction carries a maximum sentence of 18 years to life in prison. The kidnapping convictions carry a maximum sentence of 10 years each. Burt said sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

“We are very pleased with the murder and kidnapping convictions against the defendant,” said Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz Monday afternoon. “This was a team effort that could not have been accomplished without the outstanding work performed by the sheriff’s office and the assistance we received from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.”

Flaiz said they will now move forward with the cases against the Rosebrook brothers.

“Other cities, we probably wouldn’t have had justice,” Leroy said. “Hard work brought everybody here. The courage of other people, especially Mr. Carter … what courage it took for people to testify.”

Linda said she will not feel much relief until the other involved parties are found guilty as well.

“I want to hear the sentencing,” she added, regarding South.

Both Leroy and Linda said they’ll never have a feeling of closure, but they will have a feeling of some kind of justice.

“In our situation, I don’t think it’ll ever be complete,” Leroy said. “Every day you think about it.”

Linda added, “There’s everyday reminders. Dan’s birthday was (April 17). The 10-year anniversary is coming up May 26. There will never be closure. Never. (South) just has to pay for his actions. You can’t just do things like this, break into people’s homes and expect to not to have to pay the price.”