GALLIPOLIS — A jury trial has been continued in the case against a murder suspect accused of gunning down a Patriot man in his home earlier this year.
In an entry filed this week, Gallia County Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans recuses himself from any further proceedings in the case against Joseph D. Plymale, 27, of Bidwell, and, following this, the case was continued until further order.
Plymale had previously been scheduled to appear before a jury July 7, while the deadline for a negotiated plea in this case has passed and was on June 6.
A new case schedule in the case against Plymale’s co-defendant, Christopher Bowman, 35, of Gallipolis, has been set and he may enter a plea in his case by July 21. A jury trial has been scheduled for Aug. 18.
Retired Judge Michael Ward will now preside over the case against Plymale.
Plymale and Bowman were arrested in February following a lengthy investigation into the suspicious death of John S. Sheets, 58, of Wray Road, Patriot, after his body was found in his home on Feb. 5.
Reportedly, on the evening of Feb. 5, a deputy with the Gallia County Sheriff’s office was contacted to conduct a well-being check on the victim after being informed that he had not been seen in two days and his truck had been found abandoned on Dan Jones Road.
After arriving on scene, a deputy found Sheets’ body inside the home and Gallia County Coroner Dr. Daniel Whiteley later determined that Sheets had been killed by a gunshot wound and that the manner of his death was a homicide.
According to the original complaints filed against the pair in Gallipolis Municipal Court following their arrests in February, after being interviewed by investigators, Plymale’s alleged accomplice, Bowman, stated he had dropped Plymale off on the afternoon of Feb. 3 near Sheets’ residence and then drove around for a while before being contacted by Plymale to pick him up.
Bowman reportedly met Plymale, who was driving the victim’s truck, on Dan Jones Road and assisted Plymale in loading stolen guns from Sheets’ truck into Bowman’s Jeep. Bowman also reportedly told investigators that he and the co-defendant had taken the guns to Plymale’s storage unit.
Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force reportedly later found Plymale in possession of a pillow case and guns that were determined to have been stolen from the victim’s residence on Feb. 3 — the date investigators believe that the victim was killed.
Plymale reportedly also has a prior felony record for possession of drugs and attempted burglary and has not been relieved of weapons disability.
Following the investigation, the pair were both arrested and indicted by a grand jury in March.
Plymale has pleaded not guilty to a total of 11 counts in relation to the incident: two counts of aggravated murder, three counts of murder, two counts of theft, aggravated robbery, receiving stolen property, weapons under disability and tampering with evidence.
Bowman has pleaded not guilty to complicity to aggravated robbery, complicity to the theft of guns, complicity to the theft of a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado, receiving stolen property and complicity to tampering with evidence, as he had allegedly assisted Plymale in concealing stolen guns in a storage unit.
Bowman’s bond was set at $50,000, 10 percent, and bond was later posted for his release from the Gallia County Jail following his arraignment hearing in March. He is being represented by retained counsel William Eachus.
Plymale is being held in the Gallia County Jail under a $2 million, 10 percent bond. He is being represented by court-appointed counsel Graham Woodyard and Richard Hedges.
Further information on this case will be released as it is made available.