Following the guilty plea and sentencing of the third person involved in the case surrounding the death of Terry “Shag” Rothgeb, 55, Gallipolis in February of 2017, Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren and Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin have released the details of the case to the public. Rothgeb’s mother, Elizabeth “Libby” Rothgeb also made a statement regarding the handling of the case.
Lacey J. Young, 30, Middleport pled guilty on December 18 to gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence and was sentenced by Gallia County Common Pleas Court Judge Margaret Evans to prison for 12 months and 36 months, respectively. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively.
Her accomplices, Leeza D. Bartles, 23, Bidwell and Ralph W. Young, Jr., 39, Bidwell were sentenced earlier in 2017 after entering guilty pleas in their respective cases. Bartles was sentenced to six months in prison for gross abuse of a corpse and 18 months in prison for tampering with evidence, to be served consecutively. Young was sentenced to six months in prison for gross abuse of a corpse and 24 months in prison for tampering with evidence, to be served consecutively. Both Bartles and Ralph Young agreed to, as part of their plea agreement, cooperate fully in the prosecution of Lacey Young, which Prosecutor Holdren confirmed occurred.
The investigation into Rothgeb’s death, according to the police report, began with a missing person report filed by his mother after she had failed to hear from her son for several days, which was unusual. Upon investigation into his whereabouts during that time period, investigators came in contact with Bartles and Ralph Young, Jr., and subsequently, based on that investigation, located the body of Rothgeb in the abandoned van on he had been driving the evening of his death. The van was located in a wooded area on Glassburn Road. Following Rothgeb’s overdose at a residence and a failed attempt to revive him using Narcan, the trio reportedly carried his body to the van, drove it to the remote location and abandoned the vehicle. While Bartles and Ralph Young were taken into custody, Lacey Young fled the area.
According to Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren, Young was later located in Columbus by the U.S. Marshal Service, was released on her own recognizance in a Franklin County court due to the degree of the felonies with which she had been charged, failed to appear as instructed, was picked back up by the U.S. Marshal Service and held in custody until her return to Gallia County to face the charges.
Prosecuting Attorney Holdren commented on the gross abuse of a corpse charge, which is a 5th degree felony in Ohio and the tampering with evidence charge, which is a third-degree felony. A gross abuse of a corpse charge reads without legal authorization treated a human corpse in a way that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities.
“I think that this case, along with the case we dealt with last year, show the absolute need for the legislature to something,” said Holdren. “It’s outrageous that this can happen to a body and a tampering with evidence charge is a higher penalty.”
In regard to the gross abuse of corpse charge, Holdren said, while the accomplices did not do anything to Rothgeb’s body besides moving and abandoning him in the remote location, that act of attempting to hide his body “to never be found again” would outrage reasonable community sensibilities and justifies the charge.
In the judgement and sentencing entry for Young, who was also on judicial release from Athens County during the time of the incident, the court found her actions had caused serious psychological harm to Rothgeb’s loved ones by moving his body, causing them to be unable to find him for several days.
Libby Rothgeb said she addressed the impact their actions had directly to them in the courtroom, but wished to make a statement regarding the handling of the case by the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office and Gallia County Sheriff’s Office.
“As Terry’s mother my grief is relived every day in mourning the loss of my son. I am very thankful for our local law enforcement that has worked so diligently trying to achieve justice in the case of my son’s death and continue their strong vigilance of ridding our county of drugs,” said Rothgeb. “I hope that other families will not have to suffer the pain and anguish that I have had to endure at the mercy of drug dealers’ greed for their gain with no regard for lives that are destroyed involving drugs. I pray God will guide our sheriff and prosecutor and their staff as they work toward making Gallia County a safer place to live and raise a family.”
In addition to being sentenced to four years in prison in connection with Rothgeb’s death, Young also pled guilty to two counts of escape and two counts of complicity to assault of a peace officer in connection with two escape attempts while she was in custody. She was sentenced to prison for 36 months for each escape charge and 12 months for each assault charge, all of which were ordered to be served consecutively, for a total of 12 years in prison.