Murder Investigation Underway In Gallia County

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What started as a well-being check on a neighbor who hadn’t been seen in days turned into a case with 10 search warrants, six people and a motive for murder.

A Gallia County Sheriff’s deputy found John Sheets, 58, dead inside his home along Wray Road on Wednesday.

Investigators say he died from a gunshot wound to his upper back.

Joseph Plymale, 27, of Springfield Township, has been charged with murder, aggravated robbery, weapons under disability, theft and theft of weapons.

Christopher W. Bowman of Green Township has been charged with complicity to commit aggravated robbery, complicity to commit theft and receiving stolen property.

Both men were arraigned Monday in municipal court.

Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning tells this case is drug-related and that both Plymale and Bowman were using heroin.

“A lot of times when people get into this lifestyle, they very quickly develop a habit that's way beyond their financial means,” Browning said.

Browning said a neighbor called Wednesday evening to request a well-being check on Sheets after not hearing from him for several days.

Sheets’ truck was found abandoned nearby. Investigators searched the mobile home and Sheets’ truck, and they found evidence at the truck that led them to another vehicle.

“It looked as if, from the footprints in the snow, that someone had been picked up,” Browning said.

“After interviewing the driver of that vehicle, we were able to confirm that he did, in fact, not only pick up the person that was in the white truck, but he had also dropped him off in the area where the homicide had taken place.”

Browning said the person in the white truck was Plymale and the driver of the second vehicle was Bowman.

Investigators tracked Bowman to a camper just outside of Gallipolis on McCormick Road, where they executed another search warrant and charged Earl Hager and Nancy Kirk for possession of heroin. A child with Kirk was taken into custody.

Browning said investigators found Plymale outside an apartment where he had been staying with two people who had outstanding warrants.

Investigators said Cody Hockman had a felony indictment and had an AR-15 rifle that he said he had bought from Plymale.

Investigators tell they believe the rifle was stolen from Sheets’ home. Hockman was picked up on the warrant and will be charged with receiving stolen property.

Investigators say the woman at that apartment, Michelle Coughenour, had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.

Investigators say she will likely face a charge of child endangerment because there was drug residue and paraphernalia in the apartment within reach of a 2-year-old child.

A neighbor and close friend of Sheets told that she was the one who had called 911 after not hearing from Sheets since Saturday.

On Monday, she and her boyfriend and children passed by Sheets’ house and saw his garage door was shut.

“We went up in the woods and was sleigh riding and we heard one gunshot,” the neighbor said, recalling that afterward, the garage door was open and Sheets’ truck was gone.

She told she assumed Sheets was shooting for target practice and did not worry until days later.

“I said [to a neighbor,] ‘I think John's dead.’ He says, ‘Why?’ and I told him what I knew and I told him I hadn’t heard from him and I talk to John daily,” she said.

After investigators told her they found Sheets dead inside his home, she said she felt many emotions.

“Hatred, pain, I pray that they found the one that got him,” she said. “Scared, I’m scared that they’ll get out [of prison].”

The neighbor told she believed the men wanted to steal Sheets’ guns and that Plymale had dated Sheets’ daughter in the past.

“I figure these boys knew it and knew that's the way they could get some money for their drugs,” the neighbor said.

“John wouldn’t hurt no one. All they had to do was ask him for whatever they wanted. He would’ve gave it to them. They didn’t have to kill him.”

Browning confirmed that Plymale and Sheets did know each other.

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