By Erik Johns
NEWARK – Prosecutors dropped the charge against a murder suspect Wednesday after investigators determined witnesses to the crime to detectives.
A lie detector test taken by Timothy Roberts, 18, of Sunbury, yielded results that prompted Newark police detectives to re-evaluate the statements given by witnesses at the time, lawyers say.
Roberts had been charged with murder in the Nov. 27 stabbing death of friend James Price, 18, also of Sunbury. Roberts had been in the Licking County Jail on a $1 million bond since Nov.29. He was released Wednesday morning after the charges were dropped.
One of the three other witnesses has allegedly confessed to the stabbing. He is already incarcerated in the Delaware County Jail on unrelated drug and assault charges, Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said.
Roberts and his friends had come in from Sunbury for a night of partying in Newark and Heath. Shortly before 1 a.m. on Nov. 27, Price died from a single stab wound to the chest on Ohio 79 near Grant Street.
Three witnesses to the crime – one man and two women – allegedly provided false statements to investigators that led to Roberts' arrest.
"The witnesses had blatantly lied and identified (Roberts) incorrectly as the perpetrator when he was innocent," Roberts' lawyer, Robert Calesaric said. "This is the most bizarre case I've ever seen."
The original story told to police was that Roberts and Price had gotten into a fight which culminated in the stabbing. At the time, police were unable to identify a cause for the fight.
Calesaric said the male witness – an as yet unidentified Sunbury man who has allegedly confessed to the stabbing – and one of the female witnesses were in a relationship, and the third witness was Roberts' girlfriend.
He added that the three witnesses were longtime friends, and Roberts had just began his relationship with the group a few months prior.
Oswalt said criminal charges against the alleged confessor and the two other witnesses are possible, pending the completion of the police investigation.