By Tom Sheehan
Newark, Ohio – A 19-year-old Sunbury man spent the past six weeks in jail charged with a murder authorities now say he didn't commit.
It wasn't a case of mistaken identity that landed Timothy Roberts in the Licking County jail for allegedly killing his best friend.
Three other people who claimed to witness the stabbing of 18-year-old James Price on Nov. 27 in Newark apparently lied to police about what happened. One of them now is the prime suspect in Price's death.
Roberts passed a polygraph test on Jan. 7 and was freed Wednesday after the murder charge was dismissed at the request of Licking County Prosecutor Robert Becker.
Brandon Eismon, 21 confessed earlier this week, said Newark police detective Steven Vanoy. Evidence is expected to be presented this month to a Licking County grand jury.
Eismon pleaded guilty yesterday in Delaware County Common Pleas Court to aggravated possession of cocaine and aggravated assault from two unrelated incidents last year and will be sentenced later, said Bill Owen, first assistant Delaware County prosecutor.
Eismon had violated terms of his personal recognizance bond in those two cases and was arrested Nov. 29 with a new bail set at $100,000, Owen said.
Roberts had always maintained his innocence, and defense attorney Robert Calesaric said he worked with detectives and prosecutors to keep the investigation active.
"We got some information and evidence and things became more murky" about Roberts' involvement in the killing, Vanoy said yesterday.
The detective declined to elaborate on the investigation or on a possible motive for the killing. He said prosecutors are looking into possible felony charges against two women interviewed by investigators.
The three men and two women, all from the Sunbury area, had gone to a sports bar in Heath. They then stopped their car along Rt. 79 on Newark's west side early in the morning of Nov. 27 after some kind of altercation, police said.
Angela Dietzel, Eismon's girlfriend, and Brittany Williams, a woman Roberts had dated for about three months, both claimed Roberts stabbed Price. Williams said she watched Roberts stab Price in the chest, authorities said. No murder weapon was recovered.
It's obvious why Eismon lied to police, Calesaric said. But he doesn't understand what motivated the two women.
"Brittany blatantly lied," Calesaric said. "I hold her responsible for Tim sitting in jail for six weeks."
While Roberts is ecstatic to be out of jail, where some other inmates jokingly called him "killer," he is not ready to talk about what happened, his lawyer said.
"The guy who died is his best friend. He gets charged with murder and is incarcerated," Calesaric said.
The attorney said Roberts and Eismon argued in the car and Eismon punched Roberts in the face.
After the car stopped on Rt. 79 near Grant Street, all three men got out and Price tried to break up the fight, Calesaric said.
Roberts didn't see the stabbing, Calesaric said, but saw his friend fall to the ground.
Roberts and the other three fled and were later picked up by police.