On December 15, 2004 John Riebe, a drug addict and part-time sub-contractor for various companies in and around Lucas County, Ohio, was found dead on the floor, by his daughters when they returned home from school between 3.16pm – 3.20pm. Riebe had been shot 7 times.
At the time of Riebe’s death, Eric Babos had been friends with him for over 20 years. Eric had worked part-time with Riebe on many of his sub-contracting jobs.
On the morning December 15, 2004 although Eric had not been working with Riebe on a job contracted from A-1 Heating, they had made plans to go pick up their check from A-1 and start on another job that Riebe had lined up. When Eric called Riebe, who was obviously high, he was told to call him back later. Eric realized there would be no work with Riebe that day, so he decided to go to work for his brother, Greg Babos, on a rental house under renovation. Eric called Greg, who gave him a list of things that needed to be done on the house. Eric then called his father, Steve Babos, who picked Eric up and gave him a ride to the rental property, stopping for coffee along the way.
When they arrived at the house, they both went inside and looked over what needed to be done. Steve left the house and Eric began working in the early afternoon.
After a while Eric took a break and called Riebe on his cell phone, asking him whether he had gone and picked up the check. Riebe replied that he was going to ask his ex-wife Lisa Rachman to do it, as he did not like to drive when he was high. Eric said "OK" and went back to work. Eric called back a short time later to inquire as to whether she had brought the check, concerned over her known propensity for gambling. Riebe responded no.
Later in the afternoon, Eric called Riebe again and was told by Riebe's daughter that "something bad had happened to her Dad and not to call back”, and he couldn't come to the phone and hung up the call. Eric did call back, but nobody answered the phone. Eric called his brother Greg at work, got the number for A-1 from the phone book, and called A-1, inquiring about the check. He got the owner on the line, repeated what he had been told, and the owner replied "What do you think I just fell out of a Christmas tree?" - which was a strange thing to say, and told Eric that the check had not been picked up.
Eric went back to work, and his brother Greg picked him up at about 5pm when he finished work. Greg went inside the house to review the work which Eric had completed, ran by the bank and went to pick up a Christmas Tree, which Eric paid for. Then Greg took Eric home.
Later that night, Steve called Eric and told him to turn on the news which announced Riebe had been killed.
Eric immediately went to his cousin's house. Eric, his nephew, Jason, and another friend, Klaywitter, went to the police station. They told the police about having seen a drug dealer named Valynn Rogers (also known as “JR”) threaten Riebe a few weeks earlier, pulling out a gun on him and swept the room with it and said “none of you better be cops, because I just got out of prison and I don’t give a fuck”.
The police swabbed Eric's hands for gunshot residue (GSR). Feeling like he was being treated as a suspect, Eric left.
Eric Babos #509305
Allen / Oakfield Correctional Institution
P O Box 4501
Lima, OHIO 45802
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From what is adduced at Trial, the investigation appeared to focus on four telephone calls that were made to A-1 Heating from Riebe's home phone at 3.03pm, 3.06pm, 3.08pm and 3.12pm.
The first call was placed by Riebe when he spoke with the A-1 Manager, Dan Boyle. Boyle told him the check was ready.
The second call was also received by Boyle, was testified to having been initiated by someone else, who stated "I want my fucking money", identifying himself as "Eric, John's helper" upon inquiry, then putting Riebe on the line.
The third call was placed on hold by the A-1 owner, Bob Pfeifer before talking to anyone.
The fourth call was answered by Pfeifer, whereupon the caller identified himself as "Eric" and said "I want the money that you owe me," to which Pfeifer replied that he didn't owe him anything, "Mr. Reibe does, have John call me”.
All four calls were placed to the unpublished private number used only by A-1 service technicians, unlike the one call confirmed to have been made by Eric, to the published number, from his cell phone, at 4.08pm.
Riebe was last known to be alive during the 3.06pm call. He was found dead between 3.16pm and 3.20pm, 10-14 minutes later.
The swab taken from Eric, hours after the murder, established that no GSR was present. No fingerprints were found on the shell casings, which were .380 caliber, exactly the caliber of gun that Valynn Rogers was found with several days after the murder, during a traffic stop.
Post-trial examination, upon discovery of this previously withheld fact, resulted in a claim of "microscopic differences" between Rogers' gun and the gun that killed Riebe.
No DNA or bodily fluids from Riebe were found on Eric's clothing, nor was his DNA found on a drinking straw from the crime scene. No evidence from either the crime scene or a search of Eric's home implicated him in any way.
The investigators refused to accompany Greg or Steve, to Greg's rental house to show them specifically what work Eric had completed during the time of the murder, which would demonstrate affirmatively that Eric could not have been at Riebe's house, because he was working at Greg's rental property.
At Trial, in addition to the evidence relating to the phone calls from Riebe's home phone, the State presented testimony from Pfeifer claiming that the voice from the 3.12pm call was 'the same" as that of Eric when he called at 4.08pm.
The testimony of Pfeifer at Trial, that the voice from the call known to have been made by Eric on his cell phone from Greg's house was "the same" as that of the 3.12pm call, was given months after the calls, and without Pfeifer ever having spoken to Eric at any other time, in person or on the telephone. There is nothing particularly distinctive or remarkable about Eric's voice.
It was also established that Riebe had, in fact, called his ex-wife, Lisa Rachman (with whom he remained friends) to ask her to pick up the check from A-1 for him. The call was not answered, because she was not home, so it went to her voicemail, timed at 2.58pm, shortly before the first call to A-1.
A minute later, a second message was left, in which Riebe "sounded panicky" because "someone" was there waiting for his money. The Prosecutor pushed the theory that this was Eric, despite the fact that the two men had been friends for many years and there had not been any issues between them before.
Further, Eric already had some money, as evidenced by the testimony, that he paid for the Christmas tree.
While Eric certainly wanted his money, he also certainly was not in a panic over it.
Nobody ever saw Eric with a gun, as multiple people testified to at Trial, and the conviction was obtained primarily as a result of the testimony of Pfeifer as to the "voice comparison" from the two calls.
No physical evidence whatsoever ties Eric to the crime, and the evidence of his alibi was not investigated by the police.
It was claimed at Trial that there was a "trace" of GSR "on the left sleeve" of a shirt belonging to Eric, however the testimony that a proper GSR test requires samples be taken "within 2 hours of the incident", shows that such results were either faulty, or the alleged trace evidence came from another source. It should also be noted that the shirt was not tested until 2 weeks after the murder!
Besides, Eric is right-handed. There is no way he could fire a gun 7 times and only a "trace" of GSR found, on the wrong sleeve.
No testimony was introduced to even suggest any animosity between Eric and Riebe, or to contradict the fact that they had been friends for over 20 years, or to even so much as suggest any motive that Eric would have been in such a panic over $150.00 to shoot Riebe 7 times, especially when he already had some money.
No testimony was introduced to counter the likelihood that Riebe owed a drug dealer (or dealers), and that one of them was the likely shooter, including the probability that Rogers, the one who had threatened him with a gun of the same caliber used to kill him only weeks before the murder, was a more likely suspect, especially when it was learned that Rogers had hidden out in his sister's basement for weeks after the murder, and he had admitted doing it, to other witnesses.
Eric's recorded statement demonstrates complete consistency in all of his statements and confidence in his innocence. There was never any hesitancy, even when being lied to by the police interrogators by telling him things like "witnesses saw you there", to which he replied "They're lying". All of the statements ever provided by Eric are 100% consistent, both with each other and, more importantly, with the physical evidence from the case.
AFTER THE TRIAL
After the Trial, an appeal was made, which was unsuccessful as so many are. The appellate judges rarely like to disturb the work of their colleagues in the lower courts.
However, after Trial, it was discovered that the testimony of Police Detective Colwell at Trial, that he had knowledge that "none of Riebe's drug dealers would front him drugs" thereby implying that he could not have owed any of them, was false.
It was discovered that Colwell had a secretly withheld video-recorded statement from one of Riebe's drug suppliers, Clarence Evans, admitting that he had been at Riebe's home a day or two before the murder because "Riebe owed him money".
It was further discovered that the prosecution withheld evidence implicating another drug dealer, Thomas Jackson, in Riebe's murder, when Police Detective Slaman was contacted by one of them, Michael Sterling who advised him that Jackson's brother, Lawrence Jackson had told both him and Brian Himebaugh that Jackson had admitted that he killed Riebe. (At a later hearing, Jackson recanted, however, the evidence was still withheld from the defense at trial).
It as also revealed that Colwell and Slaman withheld the fact that prior to Trial, they had interviewed a witness named Vincent Williams who told them that Valynn Rogers had explained to Williams that Riebe owed him money and that he had shot Riebe over the money that was due, confirming that he had personal knowledge that Rogers always carried a gun, and that he knew that Rogers had hidden in his girlfriend's house for 2 weeks after the Riebe murder. Colwell and Slaman told Williams that he was "a liar, we have our guy".
Slaman also withheld the fact that phone records established that Rogers had talked with Riebe five times by phone on the day of the murder.
Eric's family was able to hire an Investigator after his conviction, and the Investigator interviewed
feifer, who told him that the voice on the call from Riebe's house "sounded Jivey", and upon a re-interview afterward, repeated, "No, I told you it was a black man".
Newly developed technology, not available at the time of Trial was applied to the recording left on Lisa Rachman's voicemail message and establishes that a voice discovered in the background was African-American. Eric is Caucasian, Rogers is African American.
When these facts and evidence were attempted to be presented to the Court, the Court essentially disregarded it and refused to grant even so much as a new trial.
The Prosecution never even bothered to test Riebe's home phone for fingerprints, despite it being collected and bagged to do so, or for "touch DNA". Eric hopes to attempt to seek such testing in order to further prove his innocence.