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OH- Local native kills self as law zeroes in on him

Man tied to death of Virginia woman

9-2-2006 Ohio:

A former Bowling Green man convicted in Lucas County of kidnapping and gross sexual imposition of a female retail clerk at the Southwyck Shopping Center nearly 20 years ago was found dead in Virginia this week, hours after authorities found the body of a young woman whom they suspect he abducted and killed.

Police believe the man, John Michael Snyder, 37, shot himself in the head with a 45-caliber revolver Monday in his apartment in Henrico County near Richmond.

The apparent suicide occurred just hours after news stations broadcast that authorities had found the half-naked body of a 21-year-old woman, said Sheriff James Agnew, of Goochland County, Virginia.

The woman's body was found in the county about 15 miles away from Snyder's apartment, the sheriff said.

Snyder is a native of Whitehouse.

In 1988, when he was 18 and a senior at Anthony Wayne High School, Snyder was convicted of the kidnapping and sexual assault at the shopping center after he had the woman undress and get into his car, according to court records.

At the time of his arrest, Snyder told investigators about sexual urges "that he can not control," according to police reports.

Snyder ultimately pleaded guilty to the felony charges.

Then-Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge William J. Skow ordered him to serve five years probation, pay a $1,151 fine, and undergo psychotherapy on an outpatient basis.

He served his sentence during the late 1980s and early 1990s while living in the Bowling Green area. He married, divorced, and remarried.

About three years ago, police believe, Snyder moved to Virginia and began living in the apartment where he killed himself.

Also living in the apartment were his current wife, Keren Snyder, 32, an Israeli native, and his ex-wife, 47-year-old Denise Ervin, originally from Ohio.

Virginia authorities believe they have a videotape of Emily "Kate" Robertson getting out of her white Jeep about 9 a.m. Aug. 25 and getting into Snyder's car outside a Nordstrom department store in Goochland County.

Miss Robertson's family reported her missing later that night. She did not report to work the following day.

Last Sunday, police traced the signal from her cell phone and found the phone nestled in grass alongside a highway, Sheriff Agnew said.

On Monday, police found Miss Robertson's body in a creek, several hundred feet away, he said.

Because of the body's decomposition, a preliminary autopsy failed to determine how she died or if she was raped, Sheriff Agnew said.

Snyder was not a suspect until investigators realized that his car matched that of the vehicle on the surveillance videotape.

"We feel very confident that this is our man," Sheriff Agnew said.

Police theorize that Snyder killed himself upon hearing news reports of the body's discovery, "and we've discovered some statements that support that theory from people who knew him."

Yet many mysteries remain.

Besides confirming how Miss Robertson died, the sheriff said investigators have yet to determine how Snyder and Miss Robertson knew one another.

Both Snyder's current and former wives claim to have no knowledge of what Snyder was doing at the time Miss Robertson was abducted.

"They have stated that he would often go on long walks," Sheriff Agnew said.

"And they assumed he was on one of his walks."

The investigation is continuing.

During the incident at Southwyck in April, 1987, Snyder armed himself with a handgun and a knife. He walked into the former Canary and Elephant Shop after closing, according to court records.

He ordered the store's lone female clerk into a back storage room, where he ordered her to remove her clothes. Snyder sexually assaulted her.

He then forced her to get into his car, which he drove to a stone quarry on Gunn Road. He tried to convince the girl to have sex with him, but she refused.

He drove her back to the mall and dropped her off, court records state.

Snyder was arrested by mall security the following day when he returned to the store to see the woman.

Afterward, Snyder spent time in a hospital for mental issues, and a psychiatric evaluation described him as an intelligent yet "moderately depressed adolescent" who was very distrustful of others and borderline paranoid. Snyder was put on anti-depressants.

He enrolled at Bowling Green State University, but by 1990 had dropped out.

In 1988, he made two suicide attempts, according to court records.

In July, Snyder filed a motion in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to have his criminal record expunged.

The motion was scheduled for a hearing Sept. 12.

His effort likely would have proved fruitless because a felony kidnapping conviction is not eligible to be expunged under state law.

Sheldon Wittenberg, the attorney who handled Snyder's case in 1988, said yesterday that he was aware of the circumstances surrounding Snyder's apparent suicide, but hadn't spoken to Snyder in years.

Mr. Wittenberg defended Judge Skow's sentence from 18 years ago.

"At the time he was sentenced, it was an appropriate sentence," Mr. Wittenberg said, adding, "Hindsight is 20-20."

Judge Skow could not be reached for comment yesterday. ..more.. by JC Reindl

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