"I hope you spend the rest of your life in prison and I sure hope you behave yourself. I hope you learned your goddamn lesson.” – Leroy Ott
Leroy Ott wanted Joe Rosebrook put behind bars for the rest of his life.
On Oct. 6, he got his wish.
Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fuhry sentenced Rosebrook to life in prison without parole for his role in the mistaken-identity murder of Leroy’s son, Daniel E. Ott, a 31-year-old Burton Township man who bore the same first and last name as Rosebrook’s intended target, 69-year-old Daniel C. Ott, of Bath, Ohio.
Even though a jury of his peers convicted Rosebrook of two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy in September, he maintained his innocence Thursday as he stood up to speak after his attorney, Henry Hilow, spoke on his behalf.
“I’d like to address to the Ott family. I’m truly sorry for the loss and tragic ordeal they’ve been through in the past years and I’d like to apologize to my family for everything you’ve been through,” said Rosebrook, though he did not turn around to look at the Ott family seated behind him in the courtroom.
“I’m truly sorry this whole ordeal took place, but I still maintain my innocence,” he said, having shown no sign of emotion throughout all his court proceedings.
“Joe, this family does not accept your apology,” Leroy said, when he volunteered to speak on behalf of his family. “You put this family through hell, especially (Ott’s girlfriend) Maryann Ricker, and my wife, Linda … and our daughter.
“You took the life of our son and we live with that every day. I hope you spend the rest of your life in prison and I sure hope you behave yourself. I hope you learned your goddamn lesson.”
Ott added he will spend the rest of his life thanking law enforcement, prosecutors, detectives, especially Geauga County Sheriff’s Office detective Juanita Vetter … “who worked so hard, and I love this court and all the detectives. We appreciate it. Thank you, detectives.”
“I won’t think for one minute about you, Joe,” Leroy continued, turning back to Joe, who remained silent, looking ahead at the judge. “I just hope you behave yourself. You took the life of an innocent man. If you had spent 10 years and served your time, Dan probably would have hired you and given you a second chance at life. But you pulled all this crap, so no mercy for you. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
While serving time in London Correctional Institution for an unrelated crime in 2006, Rosebrook had hired fellow inmate and convicted thief Chad South to kill Daniel C. Ott, a career car thief who had turned state’s evidence against Rosebrook in a prior attempted murder-for-hire plot in the early 2000s.
South traveled to Geauga County in late May 2006, with two other people, and murdered Daniel E. Ott inside the Burton Township home he shared with Ricker, changing the lives of the Ott family and loved ones forever.
Daniel E. Ott, a greenhouse worker who grew up in Vermilion, was days away from moving to Grand Rapids, Mich., to start a new job.
Prosecutors argued South realized he was in the wrong home and had the wrong Daniel Ott, so he bound him with duct tape and attempted to leave. But Daniel was able to free himself and confronted South. A scuffle ensued and Daniel was shot in the chest with a shotgun.
South was convicted of murder in May and sentenced to 28 years to life in prison
The other people in the car with him, Mindie Mock Stanifer and Alva Jacobs, had pleaded guilty to their involvement in the crimes and were sentenced to 18 years in prison and 30 days in jail, respectively.
Carl “Jeff” Rosebrook, who prosecutors believed was the moneyman in the botched scheme, agreed last week to plead guilty to first-degree misdemeanor obstruction of justice as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. He avoided jail time and all of his felony charges were dropped. He was fined $1,000.
Besides imposing prosecutors’ suggested sentence of life in prison without parole, Fuhry also sentenced Rosebrook to 13 years in prison — a 10-year maximum sentence and three-year gun specification — for his kidnapping conviction, to be served prior to his life sentence.
“Turning my attention to the kidnapping, first, count five, of Maryann Ricker. That I find was especially heinous because — any kidnapping is heinous — but this was in her own home with her fiancé, Dan Ott, at her side, who also was kidnapped as part of the same incident and it was the kidnapping that prompted Dan Ott to break free to try to confront Chad South, which precipitated his murder,” said Fuhry. “And it was a kidnapping that was aimed at an ultimate goal of not just kidnapping, but aggravated murder.”
Fuhry said it goes without saying Dan Ott did not deserve to die.
“He didn’t deserve anything. He had nothing to do with Chad South and Joe Rosebrook. His death was a mindless, senseless death caused as a result of a mistaken identity by sinister murderers,” the judge said. “And it was the result of a vengeful vendetta. This was no noble purpose. This was to retaliate against someone who served as a witness in a legal proceeding — like what goes on in this courtroom — and the law views retaliation against a witness like that very, very seriously.
“It was the death, here, of a totally innocent 31-year-old man. And by all accounts, he was a fine, hardworking, law-abiding man with a wonderful reputation. To think that, but for the determined and relentless efforts of law enforcement, justice for Dan Ott … would have been denied.”
Fuhry said, oftentimes, it’s challenging to come up with a sentence when there is a range of possibilities available as there was in this case.
“But in the case of you, Mr. Rosebrook, you hatched this while you were serving time for the first conspiracy to commit aggravated murder,” an incredulous Fuhry said, pointing at Rosebrook. “So this is made easy for me. You’re a repeat offender and this was a scripted and a choreographed, a planned, a pre-determined effort. Everything about the offense to me points toward it being more, rather than less, serious.”
Rosebrook made no other comments except to request a court-appointed attorney for his appeal.
Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Driscoll said prosecutors were very satisfied with the sentences.
“We think that is the best sentence and it is the most appropriate sentence in these circumstances,” she said after the sentencing. “I mean, this is a guy who is constantly going after witnesses and hiring people to kill them. So yeah, we’re absolutely satisfied. We’re so grateful that the jury saw this for what it was and the judge saw it for what it was and we think this is the appropriate sentence.”
When asked her thoughts on the likely appeal, Driscoll said they always anticipate an appeal after a guilty verdict.
“We think this was a very clean, fair trial and I don’t think that he will prevail at appeals,” she said. “But you never know, so we’ll continue (on).”
After the courtroom was dismissed, Leroy again thanked the efforts of all the law enforcement officers involved in the case, the victims’ advocate and the endless support his family received from the county and media during the investigation and convictions.
“It’s good,” he reiterated about Fuhry’s sentence. “He’ll be in there for his life. He’s 60 years old. I don’t think he’ll ever see the light of day and I hope he never does. And like I said, I hope he behaves himself. I hope he learned his lesson, I doubt it, but I hope so.”
Video from Thursday’s sentencing will be posted shortly, so check back for courtroom coverage.