WELLINGTON TWP., OHIO — Three suspects have been charged with murder in the death of Eric Zaffer, whose body was found Tuesday in a fire-torn Lorain County home.
Bishop Howard, 18, of Carlisle Township, Ryan Crews, 21, of Elyria, and Trevor White, 19, of Carlisle Township, have all also been charged with aggravated robbery, according to Lorain County sheriff’s deputies.
County coroner Stephen Evans found that Zaffer, 45, had been shot at least once prior to the fire.
The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined but one detail seems clear: Zaffer was dead before the flames broke out.
Howard has admitted to pulling the trigger, deputies said, delivering a killing shot to Zaffer’s upper right chest.
The alleged slaying may have been motivated by drugs. Deputies found marijuana plants outside a Carlisle Township house where Howard and Crews reside. Pot was also found at the Wellington Township home where Zaffer’s body was discovered.
The shooting appears to have taken place during a breaking and entering, according Det. Sgt. Randal Koubeck.
Lt. Heath Tester said that while investigators looked into the death of Zaffer, another deputy was sent Tuesday to a breaking and entering complaint at the Elyria Country Club in Carlisle Township. Evidence discovered there led right back to Howard and Crews’ home.
Officers found boxes of jerky and pastries they believe were taken from the Elyria Country Club as well as Zaffer’s cell phone and a bucket of change missing from Zaffer’s home. Inside the bucket was Zaffer’s Giant Eagle card.
Officers also found a rifle — an SKS-7.62 — matching the type of bullet that killed Zaffer. Ballistics test results have not yet been released, however.
The suspects were arraigned Tuesday in Oberlin Municipal Court.
The investigation is ongoing and further charges may be forthcoming.
Two of the suspects are cooperating with law enforcement officers while the other is not. Deputies would not specify which suspect is refusing to talk.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter. Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Lt. Heath Tester and Det. Sgt. Randal Koubeck speak Thursday in a press conference at the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office regarding charges against three suspects in a fatal shooting on Peck Wadsworth Road.