Pike Co. cold case: 'Stuff's been covered up long enough' - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Pike Co. cold case: 'Stuff's been covered up long enough'

PIKE COUNTY, OH (FOX19) -

The first thing that ran through Paul Francis’ mind: that water line and those wires weren't supposed to be there.

So he started pulling on them.

Paul pulled the water line out of the side of the kitchen wall at his buddy’s Wynn Road home. He couldn't pull the line any farther so he started pulling on the wires. Those wires slithered from under the grass out across the front yard toward a pile of garbage about 50 yards down the hill.

The wires stopped at the bottom of a pile of garbage and rock.

Paul stood there, staring at the wiring in one hand and eyeing the pile of rubble in front of him. He knew right then, this plumbing job could end up leading to the biggest break yet in his brother and future sister-in-law’s 2006 murder case.

Paul’s brother, Curtis Francis and Jennifer Burgette were shot to death in their beds on Dec. 9, 2006. It happened on Hopper Road. It’s never been solved.

Investigators haven’t named a suspect and won’t tell whether they know why the murders happened.  

The case is still unsolved and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office had shelved it years ago, listing the Hopper Road double murder as a “cold case.”

But, after a six-month news investigation into this case, it turns out investigators might have known exactly what they needed to know within months of the murders.

A “HIDDEN” WELL OF EVIDENCE

“It was buried underneath four feet of rocks and dirt and it had been hid,” Paul Francis said as he described the day last July when he found the water line and wiring under his friend's sink at 3015 Wynn Road.

The wires led to a well no one involved in the criminal investigation knew existed before.

The Wynn Road home was the last place his brother was the night he was murdered, Francis said. That fact was also backed up by witness statements we found during the course of our investigation into this case.

“Nobody knew the well was there until we found it,” Francis said.

The nobody Paul Francis was talking about was the Pike County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

He described finding it a “complete accident,” but Francis said he knew there was something about it that could help finally bring answers in his brother’s unsolved murder.

“Excitement, hope,” Francis recalled, “I knowed there were answers involved in that well. I just had that feeling,” Francis told FOX19 NOW Investigative Reporter Jody Barr in January.

“I dug for two to three days, pretty well around the clock, me and Adam, the guy who lives here, before we revealed this well to anybody,” Francis said.

Paul Francis mentioned the well to his mother, Judy Conley, and the work he spent trying to clean out around it. Judy, Paul said, called the Pike County Sheriff’s Office immediately and deputies rushed to the Wynn Road home and set up a crime scene around it.

But, it wasn’t the first time Francis said investigators had spent time searching around the Wynn Road home looking for evidence in the Hopper Road case. The sheriff’s office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office conducted several searches in the area, Francis said.

“They was down there in that swamp looking for weapons until the swamp sunk everything they had down there; BCI and everybody was down there,” Francis said.

“They didn’t know that well was there,” Francis added.

There is a swampy area directly behind the Wynn Road home and Sunfish Creek runs very close by. Francis said investigators searched the creek in the years following the murders, but said investigators told him they never turned up any evidence in the case.

This time, Francis thought, this unknown well could be what they’ve been looking for all along.

The Pike County Sheriff’s Office spent a week guarding the well, Francis said. We checked with the Pike County Clerk of Court and found a search warrant executed at the property in July 2016.

The search warrant was sealed, according to the clerk’s office, which means the public cannot see what investigators were after and why they were there.

Without finding Paul Francis and his mother in January, the well discovery and what investigators found in it would likely still be a secret today.

“STUFF’S BEEN COVERED UP LONG ENOUGH HERE”

“There’s evidence in there, I’ll put it to you that way,” Paul Francis said as he stood over the well during our interview in January. Francis was initially hesitant about talking about what investigators told him and his mother concerning what they found in the well.

But, Francis eventually decided it was time to talk.

“Stuff’s been covered up long enough here and it’s time to get some answers out of here,” Francis said.

The Francis family said they’ve been in steady contact with investigators concerning the investigation into the Hopper Road murders from the beginning. So, it was no surprise to them when an investigator stopped by the Francis home in August 2016 to talk about what they found down that well.

We were able to confirm through the Francis and Burgette families that investigators used a plumbers drain camera to see what was down the well. Public records we found a few weeks later confirmed what the families told us about the camera and the well.

Pike County spending records show the sheriff’s office spent $1,815.82 with Willis and Sons Plumbing on July 27, 2016. The invoice shows charges to run a video camera down a six inch well. The approval for the camera was signed by Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reader.

“I seen the pictures of it later—me and my mom. It’s like, I call it a saddle gun, a lever-action 18 shot .30-06. That’s what my brother was killed with and his wife—fiancé—and a pistol in that well,” Francis said.

Judy Conley also confirmed the details of those pictures during an off-camera interview with her in January. Conley initially agreed to an on-camera interview then, but canceled the interview the day before we were scheduled to shoot it.

“That’s the gun that killed him,” Francis said, “It’s a lever-action saddle gun and on the camera it’s as clear as day.”

Francis and his mother also confirmed investigators told them the camera showed burned clothing in the well with the guns. The Burgette family confirmed they saw the same when investigators visited them last August.

“We’re supposed to not say nothing about that, but I think it’s time for it to be said,” Francis said. 

The sheriff’s office spent a week working to get the evidence out of the well, Francis said. But, what Francis characterized as “a mistake” by investigators could keep the evidence trapped underground forever.

THE WELL WAS “BLOWED ALL TO HELL”

The Pike County plumbing invoice shows charges for a sump pump, a pump used to suck water out of one place and dump it in another. Paul Francis said the sheriff’s office had the plumber pull water out of the well as a fire truck was called in to pump water into the well.

The thought behind that was to clean out the area around the guns and burned clothing so investigators could get a clear look at the potential evidence stuck in the well shaft, Francis recalled investigators telling him.

But, Francis said investigators got another idea in July: they wanted to use the water from the fire truck to try to push the evidence back up out of the well shaft so investigators could get their hands on it.

As Paul Francis described it, “What a mistake.”

“No, there ain’t nothing recovered out of that well. They blowed the bottom out of it with the fire truck,” Francis said.  

Francis said investigators told him the force from the fire truck’s water line knocked an 80 feet deep hole in the bottom of the well, taking the evidence along with it.

“They’re talking about drilling a well right here, right beside this one, big enough for a man with scuba gear to go in to tunnel into the side of this one to recover the weapons and stuff that’s in there,” Francis said.

“Ridiculous. There ain’t no way,” Francis concluded.

The well shaft is now secured with a steel plate welded over the opening.

We could not confirm whether investigators were ever able to retrieve the evidence from the Wynn Road well. Pike County Clerk of Court records show three other search warrants were served at the home on Nov. 10 and Nov. 14, 2016.

Those warrants, as the one from July 2016, are sealed and the details of those searches are being kept secret by court order, the clerk’s office confirmed.

Sometime around 2014, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office finished a second investigation into the Hopper Road double murder. The office classified the case as a “cold case” and posted an article on the Attorney General’s web site, asking the public for help.

STATE OFFERS DEAL TO MAN FOR INFORMATION IN HOPPER ROAD MURDERS

“The Pike County Sheriff’s Office followed up on numerous leads and completed a thorough investigation, however, not enough information was obtained to solve this homicide,” the Attorney General’s Office wrote in the article about the Hopper Road case on its cold case web site.

In a Dec. 20, 2014 Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine appeared in a televised interview on WBNS TV in Columbus to help bring attention to the Hopper Road case. DeWine said then he thought the case could be solved and that investigators know “there’s a person or people out there who have information, who would enable us to solve the case.”

[WATCH THE WBNS TV INTERVIEW HERE]

“We just have to encourage them and get them to come forward and that’s what we’re trying to do by being on your show today,” DeWine told the host.

But, during our new investigation into the Hopper Road murders, we ran across a case file in a separate murder case that contains several statements from 2007 and 2008 from people who claim to have first-hand knowledge of who murdered Curtis Francis and Jennifer Burgette, the motive for the murders, and what happened to the murder weapons and the accused killers’ clothes following the killings.

The statements we uncovered were included in the case file in the 2006 shooting death of Paul E. Shope, III of Pike County. Shope was shot to death on Sheridan Lane on Feb. 11, 2006. Prosecutors later charged Eric D. Horn of Piketon with the murder.

Horn later pleaded guilty to the murder charge and is serving a life sentence for the murder.

Horn’s case file shows communications between his public defender and Paul Scarsella, a prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office where the attorneys were negotiating a proffer with Horn on the Hopper Road double murder. The deal would also keep the state from using whatever Horn told them about the double murder case against him, the emails show.

Horn, investigators believed, had information on the Hopper Road case and were willing to potentially make a deal with him for that information, emails between the attorneys obtained by FOX19 NOW show.

“I am interested in speaking to Mr. Horn about the double under a proffer situation however I do not believe a flat time sentence would be appropriate based on the shope [sic] homicide alone. I would be willing to consider one count of murder with a gun for the shope [sic] homicide and depending on what he has to say about the double we would probably be more interested in him as a witness than as a defendant,” Scarsella wrote to Ohio Public Defender Greg Meyers in a Sept. 17, 2008 email.

Meyers was Horn’s publicly-funded trial attorney in the Shope murder case.

On Sept. 29, 2008 Horn said he provided a lengthy proffer to the Attorney General’s Office and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office inside the sheriff’s office before being walked across the street into the Pike County Courthouse. That day, Horn would plead guilty to a murder charge with a gun specification in the Shope murder.

2007 STATEMENTS APPEAR TO TELL WHOLE STORY

We could not obtain the investigation records on the Hopper Road case because—despite it being listed as a “cold case”—it’s still considered an open investigation.

We found multiple statements in the Eric Horn case file from people interviewed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. The statements dealt, in part, with the Shope murder, but also included intimate details of the Hopper Road double murder.

On April 4, 2017, we filed a public records request with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for copies of those statements from the Paul Shope, III case to verify the authenticity of the records we’d obtained in the Horn case file. The Attorney General’s Office produced the records on May 5.

The Attorney General provided some of the audio recordings made between investigators and people they interviewed, but the Attorney General’s Office staffers deleted portions of the recordings that dealt with information related to the Hopper Road murders. The deletions rendered the recordings useless for the purpose of this report.

On May 1, we requested an interview with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on the Hopper Road double murder. The office did not respond to the email requesting an interview.    

Also included in the Horn case file were handwritten statements from multiple people who lived at the Wynn Road home at the time of the Hopper Road murders. The statements were from the following people:

-Eden Canterbury

-Corey Howes

-James Howes

James and Corey Howes are brothers. Robin Howes is their mother and at the time of the murders, Robin Howes owned the home on Wynn Road, according to Pike County property records.

At the time of the murders, Eden Canterbury and Corey Howes were dating one another—a fact confirmed by the Francis and Horn families.

The statements also included the name: Kevin Prater. Prater’s actual last name is “Hoskins,” but everyone we spoke with as part of this investigation tells us “Prater” is what Mr. Hoskins is commonly known by.

EDEN CANTERBURY STATEMENT:

The first statement came Oct. 19, 2007 from Eden Canterbury. The statement is notated as a “Voluntary Statement” and is filled out on what appears to be an official Pike County Sheriff’s Office form. Canterbury’s five-page statement starts out with information on what she knew of the Paul Shope murder.

On the second page, Canterbury begins to detail first-hand information she claimed to know about the night Curtis Francis and Jennifer Burgette were murdered. Canterbury told investigators in the statement she was attending a “party” at Robin Howes house and “Kirk” [Curtis] was there. Canterbury wrote, “Jenny came down to get Kirk because she had had enough they was arguing. Jenny had went ahead and left to go back home.”

Canterbury wrote that Curtis Francis left “soon after” Jennifer Burgette, but “had come back later on and stayed for a while. There was some arguing at the party. I mean everybody was out of it basically,” Canterbury wrote.

Curtis Francis left again later that night, Canterbury wrote, “but soon after he left James Howes and Eric Horn had taken some kind of gun out of Robin’s house and had left then the [sic] had came back later they had some blood on them,” the statement shows.

Canterbury told investigators “Robin had ordered the hit on Kirk and Jenny to kill them,” the statement shows.

“James Howes and Eric Horn admitted to me and Corey that they had killed Kirk and Jenny,” was the last line in Canterbury’s statement.

COREY HOWES STATEMENTS:

The Horn case file shows two separate statements from Corey Howes to investigators connected to the Hopper Road case. The first Corey Howes statement was given to Pike County Sheriff’s Detective Nakota Spradlin on Oct. 22, 2007. The second statement was given May 20, 2008 to an unidentified investigator.

The October 2008 statement is listed as “DRAFT” and a “Confidential Investigative Report.”

In the 2007 statement, Corey Howes told investigators the night of the Hopper Road murders that Eric Horn was at the Howes’ Wynn Road home. “Approximately 2 -3 weeks after Curtis Francis and Jennifer Burgette were killed I met Eric Horn on the streets near the library in Piketon,” Howes wrote.

“He (Horn) then told me that he killed Curt and Jenny by shooting them,” Howes claimed in his statement.

Howes told investigators the night of the Hopper Road murders that “Eric and James took a rifle from the house and put it in Eric’s truck. They then left shortly after Curt did and returned with blood here and there on their clothes. Robin (mom) made them shower and Kevin put their clothes in a black trash bag and burnt them in the yard,” the statement shows.

Corey Howes claims in the statement that he was at his mother’s house a few days after the murders and “James told me that Eric Horn and him killed Curt and Jenny by shooting them and for me not to say anything about it,” the statement shows.

Corey Howes’ 2008 statement was made as he sat in the Orient Corrections Center “awaiting prison placement, having been convicted of Drug Abuse,” the investigator wrote in a report summarizing the interview. In the interview, Howes told investigators he was willing to testify against Eric Horn in the Paul Shope murder case and implicated his mother, Robin Howes, his brother, James Howes, and Eric Horn in the Hopper Road double murders, the statement shows.

The investigator wrote, “Just as in the Shope murder, there was a disagreement between the victim and the Howes posse over the non-payment of drug money.”

“Approximately fifteen minutes after his (Curtis Francis) departure, James and Eric left the house with a rifle, they returned sometime later with “blood splatter” on their clothing,” the investigator wrote. “Corey’s mother told them to clean up, and their clothes were burned,” the report states.

The investigator noted in the report that “Corey is in this world for himself, he is still very willing to take any deal the police deem fit to offer, even if it will only subtract an hour from his prison sentence,” the investigator wrote.

JAMES HOWES STATEMENT

The final statement we found in the Eric Horn case file that dealt with the Hopper Road murders is from an August 21, 2008 interview of James Howes by BCI Agent Larry Willis. The interview, the BCI document shows, took place at 3015 Wynn Road—where the well was discovered last July.

Howes’ statements begins with information he claimed to have on Eric Horn and the Paul Shope murder, but James Howes “stated he would not testify in court,” the report shows.

James Howes’ brother and his brother’s girlfriend both told investigators a year before this interview that James and Eric Horn were the ones who shot and killed Curtis Francis and Jennifer Burgette in December 2006. However, James Howes’ statement to BCI did not include any detail that included any involvement in the murders of himself.

“Howes stated he heard rumors that Eric Horn was responsible for a double murder in Pike County. Pike County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating that case,” Agent Larry Willis wrote. “James Howes’ mother, Robin, was in the room and stated the day after the double homicide; Eric Horn returned to her home and told her not to tell the police he had been there the night before. Robin also stated she thought Horn was responsible for the double homicide,” the agent wrote.

That was the end of the James Howes statement.

ERIC HORN PROFFER

After providing state prosecutors a proffer statement in September 2008, Eric Horn sent his mother a handwritten letter from prison. The letter was dated Oct. 13, 2008.

Horn told FOX19 NOW he sent the letter home to memorialize the information he gave investigators a few weeks before.

In an April 25 telephone interview from prison, Horn told FOX19 NOW Investigative Reporter Jody Barr why he decided to send the letter home to his mother, “Because if anything were to happen to me, that there would at least be some type of record so that justice could be served.”

Horn claimed he was afraid of retaliation against him or his family for the information he provided on the Howes family and the Hopper Road murders.

In the phone interview, Horn denied any involvement in the Hopper Road murders, claiming he left the Howes home before Curtis Francis did the night of the double murder.

Horn is not considered a suspect in the Hopper Road case. That information was revealed to Horn’s mother, Paula Horn, during a Feb. 10, 2017 meeting with Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk.  

Horn wrote that he left the Howes home “around 10:30 – 11:00 p.m.” and “we never saw Kurt [Curtis] again.”

Horn’s letter states he was at the Howes home again around Feb. 1, 2007 and “James (Howes) and I were out in the yard chopping fire wood and we were talking. James started talking about Kurt and Jenny he told me that Kurt had owed Kevin a good deal of money. James then broke down crying saying that Jenny wasn’t supposed to have been home that night, when I asked him what he was talking about he said the night they died. When I asked James what happened, he told me that he couldn’t talk about it.”

After assurances from Horn to James Howes that he’d keep whatever Howes told him a secret, Horn’s letter claimed, “That’s when James told me that Kevin made him go with him to Kurt’s that night. He told me that Kevin had shot Kurt and Jenny. James said that Kurt was supposed to have paid Kevin on that day but that he couldn’t get the money,” Horn’s letter shows.

Horn claimed in his letter that he and James were together some time later and that Horn urged James to “go to the police” and that “I couldn’t keep a secret like that. I told him that he could come stay at the house with me if he needed to [sic].”

“James said that he couldn’t go to the police and that he never wanted to talk about it again,” Horn wrote in the letter.

Horn also disclosed information in his letter about a 30-30 rifle that once hung on the wall of Kevin Hoskins’ bedroom at the Wynn Road home. Horn claims the rifle was a lever-action rifle and that it was no longer on the wall following the December 2006 Hopper Road murders and that he never saw it again.

Horn also claimed in the letter that following that conversation, Robin Howes invited him to the Wynn Road home and “to come alone.” Horn wrote that he drove to the Howes’ home, “was invited in” and went inside and sat on the couch.

“Robin looked at me and said, ‘so you think you’re going to go to the cops’ that’s when James attacked me,” Horn wrote. Horn said he was hit in the head with a “glass ashtray” before James Howes “began cutting me with a carpet knife.”

Horn, the letter states, was able to escape the Howes home and drive to the end of Wynn Road and pulled into a driveway where he was able to get someone to call 911. Horn’s injuries were severe enough that he had to be flown out of Pike County to a trauma center for treatment.

“They had discussed what I knew and were afraid I was going to law enforcement and I had the same thing coming that Curt and Jenny got and I had not been able to get out of the residence and get in my truck and drive away, it would have happened,” Horn said in the phone interview in April.

A May 31, 2007 Pike County Sheriff’s Office incident report shows the incident was listed as an assault by responding Deputy Jason Savage. Savage spoke with Horn first as medics were treating his injuries. Horn, Savage wrote in the report, “was able to state briefly that he had been in a fight with James Howes at Howes residence at 3015 Wynn Road, that Howes had hit him with a vase and that he, Horn, remembered little of what happened.”

Savage wrote that he went to the Pike County Hospital and interviewed James and Robin Howes. Howes was being treated for a cut to his left arm, photos taken by the Pike County Sheriff's Office show. The pair claimed Horn “went to their home and “walked in unannounced and jumped onto James as he slept starting a fight. Neither James nor his mother could advise anything further than that a vase had been broken and that during the fight Eric sustained some severe lacerations to his upper arm,” the report shows.

Detective Savage wrote that he went back to the Howes home and spoke with Kevin Hoskins. The deputy identified Hoskins as “Robin Howes’ boyfriend.” Hoskins told Savage he heard a “fight” between Horn and James Howes and saw the men “rolling around on the couch” and that Hoskins and Howes “had yelled at Horn to leave repeatedly,” before Horn finally left.

Detective Savage closed the case that day writing in the report, “Based on parallel verbal statements from Hoskins, Horn, and Robin and James Howes, this unit has made the determination that Eric Horn is the instigator of this altercation.”

Horn would later recover from his injuries—injuries that’s left him heavily scarred on both arms and across his scalp.   

When asked about his opinion of why law enforcement had not appeared to have acted on the information Horn and the others provided to investigators in 2007 and 2008, Horn explained in the prison phone interview, “They did not want to listen to me. They did not want to hear what I had to say.”

THE HOPPER ROAD CASE: “NO COMMENT”

Since the Ohio Attorney General’s Office posted the Hopper Road cold case article, no information has been released on the investigation into the murders. When the Attorney General’s Office finished re-investigating the case in 2014, it was handed back to the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office couldn’t find any new information or leads in the case, according to Pike County Prosecutor’s Office Investigator Brian Reader.

Reader is Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reader’s brother. Charlie Reader, the Francis and Burgette families told FOX19 NOW, was in an administrative deputy position at the sheriff’s office when the Hopper Road murders happened and played a major role in the initial investigation.

We asked Sheriff Reader for an interview on the case in a May 1, 2017 email. Reader declined to interview, but offered up the four men who make up the Pike County Major Crimes Task Force.

The task force is comprised of the sheriff’s brother, Brian Reader, criminal profiler Dr. Allen Smith, Deputy Jason Savage and security expert Dr. Yale Skipworth.

The task force said it’s currently working five “cold cases” in Pike County, but as of this report neither the task force—nor the sheriff’s office—could provide any information to indicate which cases were included in the county’s cold case file. The only case of the five the unit could confirm was a cold case was the Hopper Road investigation.

The task force, citing open investigations, would not provide details on the status of the Hopper Road case. The only detail provided came from Brian Reader.

“We’ve been out of state, I can tell you that much. We’ve got a lot of leads. Again, we’ve done a lot of interviews on this case, so we’re very active on it and we believe in the near future positive results on that, as well,” Reader said in the May 2 interview.

Reader also indicated the task force was sending old evidence back to BCI for another look, “I can tell you with new technology, with DNA collection, touch DNA, we’re in the process of returning some of the physical evidence that was originally collected, sending it off to have it retested, as well.”

BCI has already performed a re-investigation of the Hopper Road case, according to investigator Reader. The re-investigation lasted 18 months starting in 2012 and ended sometime in 2014, Reader said.

Dr. Smith, who said part of his expertise was criminal profiling, would not answer questions about whether his work on the Hopper Road case had resulted in a criminal profile of a potential suspect or whether he’s developed a motive for the killings.

“No comment,” was Smith’s answer to that question. “That’s a critical piece of information we’re not at liberty to discuss,” Smith added.

“Do the names James Howes, Robin Howes, Kevin Prater—do those names mean anything to this case,” Jody Barr asked the task force. “Again, I’m not at liberty to discuss any names in the case that we’re looking at, actively looking at or in the past looked at, it’s not happening,” Reader said.

We asked the task force about the Eric Horn proffer and whether any of that information was useful. “No comment,” Smith responded.

We also asked the task force about the discovery of the well by the Francis family last July, about the photographs of the rifle, handgun, and burned clothing Paul Francis said was in the well shaft. Dr. Smith responded, “No comment.”

Smith gave the same answer to the question of whether investigators were able to retrieve the evidence from that well since July 2016.

We questioned the group over whether the discovery of the Wynn Road well validated details given in the Horn proffer—and the 2007 and 2008 statements provided to Pike County investigators. “No comment,” Smith said.

“Yeah, we can’t go into detail or answer that question,” Reader said.

THE ACCUSED HAVE NOT BEEN CHARGED

None of the people named in this report have been charged with any crime related to the Hopper Road cold case. Investigators have not publicly named any suspects in the past 10 and a half years.

As part of this investigation, we made multiple attempts to contact each person named in this report. The only person we were able to interview was Eric Horn.

On Jan. 30, 2017, FOX19 NOW sent James Howes a letter to the Belmont Correctional Institution, laying out the allegations against him by his brother, Eden Canterbury and Eric Horn. James Howes never responded to our letter or request for an interview.

We made multiple attempts to locate Eden Canterbury by sending her Facebook messages and by trips to the last three addresses we could find for her in Pike and Ross Counties. Canterbury never responded to the Facebook messages and none of the last three addresses we found for her were valid.

We emailed the spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction on May 23, requesting an interview with Corey Howes at the Warren Correctional Institution. ODRC Spokeswoman JoEllen Smith responded to that request with the message, “He declined.”

On May 1 and May 4, we messaged Robin Howes through Facebook, requesting an interview concerning the allegations against her in the Hopper Road murders. Howes never responded to those messages. It took two separate trips to Pike County to locate a current address for Mrs. Howes.

Pike County property records show Robin Howes sold the Wynn Road property on July 23, 2010.

We were able to locate the home Mrs. Howes now shares with Kevin Hoskins-Prater in Piketon. Multiple neighbors confirmed Hoskins-Prater and Mrs. Howes lived in the apartment unit together.

On May 5, we knocked on Robin Howes’ door. From inside, Mrs. Howes shouted through the door, “Come on in.” We stood outside Mrs. Howes’ door and asked her if she was Robin Howes. “No,” she responded.

We also asked whether Kevin Hoskins-Prater was home, “No,” Howes responded.

Robin Howes leaned back behind a wall in her home and would not answer any questions about the Hopper Road case and never said another word to us.

A few minutes after we left the Howes home, a Piketon officer pulled up in a patrol car and went inside the apartment. The following week we picked up a copy of the police report from the police department to confirm the name of the woman inside the home. The police reports listed the woman’s name as Robin Howes.

The “nature” of the call is listed as “Threats or Harassment” and the person who made the call is listed as “PCSO,” the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. But, the officer’s write up shows no crime was committed.

Piketon Officer Harold Dye wrote, “I was advised by Robin Howe [sic] that a man knocked on the door of the apartment. He was asked to leave and did immediately as requested. I advised Ms. Howe [sic] that there was no harassment if the man left without hesitation. She stated, ‘Thank you.’ I then cleared the scene. Nothing further.”

The video we shot from Mrs. Howes home shows she never asked us to leave and never said anything after the two “No” answers we quoted her as saying in this article. The video also shows the total time spent in Mrs. Howes doorway was 49 seconds from the time the door opened until we walked away.

Around 9:30 p.m. May 5, Kevin Hoskins-Prater returned a voicemail message left on his cell phone by FOX19 NOW’s Jody Barr. After explaining to Hoskins-Prater what we were investigating, he told Barr that he also wanted the killers caught.

Hoskins-Prater did not decline an interview with us in that call, but said he wanted to first check with Curtis Francis’ family before agreeing to an on-camera interview. Hoskins-Prater said he’d call back with an answer, either way.

Hoskins-Prater never returned the call. Calls to his cell phone a few days later were unsuccessful as the number was disconnected.

We have not had any contact with any of the people named in the statements since.

Again, none of the people named have been charged with a crime connected to the Hopper Road double murder. Law enforcement has not named any suspects as of this report.

As far as we know, the investigation by the Pike County Sheriff’s Office continues. 

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