Willoughby Police Department

  • Agency: Willoughby Police Department
  • Address: 36700 Euclid Ave, Willoughby, 44094 OH
  • Chief:
Phone: (440) 953-4212

Willoughby Police Department is located at 36700 Euclid Ave, Willoughby, 44094 OH. The Willoughby Police Department phone number is (440) 953-4212.

Willoughby Police Department News


Burglary alert!

Congratulations to our Explorers!! Placed first in traffic stop scenario at state competition with a perfect score of 100 plus 5 bonus points. Well done.







WHEN A COLD CASE RUNS HOT The criminal justice system has always placed a high value on eyewitness testimony. For violent crimes and sexual offenses in particular, firsthand accounts of victims and witnesses can be a powerful tool. But what happens when crime victims are unable or unwilling to provide investigators with an accurate description of their attacker? The Painesville Police Department faced that challenge on July 13, 2002 when 29-year-old victim was sexually assaulted and beaten behind a local bar. The victim only provided a few details about her attacker, including a possible name of “JD”. She was only able to give a few details of the suspect’s clothing description to investigators. The victim was transported to Lake East Hospital, where a nurse examiner performed a sexual assault exam, collecting hairs, fibers, blood, and other physical evidence that may have been left behind by her attacker. Painesville Police Officers talked to patrons at the bar, but no one seemed to know a man named J.D. or anyone who matched his description. With only a scant description of the suspect and no information about his whereabouts, investigators knew that DNA and other evidence from the sexual assault exam could hold the key to identifying and capturing J.D. The scientific experts at the Lake County Crime Laboratory had quickly isolated and processed DNA evidence from the sexual assault exam and had a DNA profile. Now they needed a match for the profile. During the course of the investigation, officers learned that the suspect had lured the victim to walk with him along a dead end street to the nearby railroad tracks after leaving the bar. When they came to a patch of high weeds beside the tracks, JD told the victim to remove her clothes. She was then pushed into the weeds and sexually assaulted. The victim attempted to resist, but JD punched her twice, causing a deep laceration to her chin. After the attack, JD piled her bra and panties near the railroad tracks and set them on fire, apparently in an attempt to destroy evidence. The victim put on her shorts and her shirt and returned home. Her neighbors, observing her facial injuries and learning that she’d been raped, called for an ambulance. Over the next two months, Painesville Police Detectives attempted to gain more details of the incident from the victim, but she was unable to recall further information. Detectives showed her dozens of photos of individuals who matched the description of her attacker. Again and again, the victim was unsuccessful in picking him from the photo arrays. While police worked the case, Dr. Stephen LaBonne, DNA Technical Manager for the Lake County Crime Laboratory, searched for usable DNA from the biological material collected during her sexual assault exam. Dr. LaBonne was able to find semen containing a complete male DNA profile. Initially, the DNA didn’t match any of the profiles stored in the national DNA database known as CODIS. Police and the Lake County Crime Laboratory continued to work the case, but without conclusive identification of JD from the victim or a sample of his DNA, they were at a roadblock. On October 25, 2004, more than two years after the victim was attacked, the Lake County Crime Laboratory received a “hit” in CODIS on the DNA from the exam. Linda Erdei, the Laboratory Director, contacted Painesville Police to inform them that the DNA matched a profile in CODIS that belonged to Thohunga Jamal Williams, a Painesville resident who was then incarcerated on an unrelated offense. Williams was a 26-year-old career criminal with a history of violent offenses. In fact, his current prison stint was the result of an investigation by Painesville Police. On the street, Williams was known by various nicknames, including “Dirty Jamal,” “DJ” and “JD” Painesville detectives met with Williams while in prison. Williams denied the rape as well as any knowledge of the incident or the victim. He also claimed that he had never told anyone at the local bar that his nickname was JD. But armed with a search warrant, the detectives obtained a DNA standard from Williams. The Lake County Crime Laboratory analyzed the DNA from the cheek swab and compared it to the DNA from the sexual assault exam. The match was confirmed. The DNA evidence proved with scientific certainty that Williams was victim’s attacker. Based on the DNA evidence, Williams was indicted on several charges related to the assault. On September 1, 2005, the jury found Williams guilty of rape, kidnapping, sexual battery, and tampering with evidence. He was classified as a sexual predator and is serving a 15-year sentence at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The power of DNA evidence and the diligence of Painesville police and the Lake County Crime Laboratory provided the crucial breakthrough in this case.





In a Pickle; Caught Red-handed!! On September 10, 1995, business was brisk at Pickle Bill’s, a popular seafood restaurant in Grand River. At 11pm, an employee of the restaurant, prepared the day’s receipts—about $22,000—for deposit at a bank in Mentor. The money was placed in two satchels and loaded into the rear of the employee’s van, which had been parked behind the restaurant. The 65 year old employee then settled himself into the driver’s seat and began the 10-minute trip along Heisley Road to the bank. Suddenly, he felt the sharp edge of a knife pressed against his neck. A man emerged from his hiding place in the back seat of the van and screamed at the victim to turn at the next intersection. As the vehicle turned right onto Blackbrook Road, the suspect drew closer to the victim, his beard bristling against the back of victim’s neck. He reached into victim’s pocket and removed $1300 of his personal money. He then ordered the victim to drive to the end of Blackbrook, a dead-end road. Afraid that he would be killed in the secluded area, the victim made a split-second decision to escape. He pushed the knife away from his neck, opened the driver’s door and lunged out of the van. During his struggle to get away, the victim incurred several knife cuts on his neck and hands. The robber then jumped into the driver’s seat and drove away, nearly running over the victim, who was lying in the road. The suspect drove to Heisley Road, where he abandoned the van. The robber fled with the restaurant’s money, but left behind critical evidence. He had cut himself while grappling with the victim. A tiny amount of his blood had dripped onto the van’s seats. The next day, Mentor Police investigators processed the van for evidence, using a swab dipped in water to collect the dried blood. They also collected hair, fibers, fingerprints, and a cigarette butt from the rear ashtray of the van. The evidence was sent to the Lake County Crime Laboratory, along with hair and saliva samples from the victim and several other Pickle Bill’s employees who had access to the van. At the time, police were unsure whether the blood evidence came from the employees, the victim, or the robber. Since the victim was unable to provide police with a good description of his assailant, investigators hoped that the Crime Laboratory’s DNA analysis could provide the help they needed to identify the suspect. At the laboratory, serologist Linda Erdei (now the director of the Crime Laboratory) was up to the challenge of developing a DNA profile from the minute blood sample. Just two years earlier, Erdei had spearheaded the establishment of the Lake County Crime Laboratory’s DNA unit. In 1995, the Lake County Crime Laboratory was one of the first laboratories in Ohio to offer DNA testing—a giant leap forward from conventional serologic analysis, which could only detect the blood type of a person. Erdei’s first task was confirming that the blood collected by Mentor police was, in fact, human blood. She then performed a specific analysis on a segment of DNA from the blood droplet, replicating it millions of times into a quantity large enough to determine a DNA fingerprint. On Sept. 13, 1995, only two days after receiving the evidence, Erdei called Mentor Police with her results. The DNA extracted from the blood was a match for the victim, however, there was a second unidentified DNA profile. Erdei also analyzed DNA from the standards collected from the other restaurant employees. Their DNA did not match the blood found in the van. Investigators now had DNA from a possible suspect, but without a match, the investigation was at a standstill. Two months later, however, police had the break they needed. An informant tipped off detectives that Painesville resident Michael A. Nelson had admitted to a mutual friend that he committed the Pickle Bill’s robbery. Detectives interviewed the mutual friend who said that Nelson had “hid in the Pickle Bill’s van and robbed an old guy of $20,000.” Nelson apparently lost half of the money while running through the woods after he abandoned the van. The informant also gave detectives the 8 inch-long stiletto knife that Nelson had allegedly used in the robbery. In the early afternoon of Nov. 29, 1995, Mentor Police detectives arrested Nelson, 32, at the machine shop where he worked. Nelson initially denied any involvement in the robbery, but when he was informed that blood had been found in the van and had been sent for processing, he admitted to the crime. Nelson told detectives that he had watched the restaurant for about four years. He said he entered victim’s van and fell asleep in the rear seat, awakening when victim opened the rear door and threw the bags of money inside. Erdei notified Mentor Police that Nelson’s DNA was a match for the blood evidence collected from Donald’s van. Despite his verbal confession to police, Nelson pleaded not guilty to charges of felonious assault, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. In April 1997, after a jury trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to 12 to 25 years in prison. In reflecting on this case, Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Karen Kowall had the following to say, “In looking back at this case, the science stands out as a critical piece that helped secure this conviction. The Defendant had confessed to detectives, but claimed that his rights had been violated. A confession is always subject to attack by defense counsel, and later the Court of Appeals, but the science is rock-solid and heavily tipped the scale towards a guilty verdict.” Erdei credits the Crime Laboratory’s DNA Analysis unit and the Mentor Police for their roles in identifying Nelson and bringing him to justice. “The key to solving this crime was the fact that the Mentor Police Department properly collected and pre-served blood samples from the crime scene and submitted them to the Lake County Crime Laboratory,” Erdei says. “We were then able to utilize the DNA technology, which was the most advanced technology at that time, to differentiate whose blood was in the van. Our DNA analysis put Michael Nelson in the vehicle.” The Nelson case, says Erdei, is a great example of how state-of-the-art technology can help solve crimes.


COLD CASE DNA At 5am on June 11, 1995, a man broke into the home of a 57-year-old woman, sexually assaulted her at knife-point, and slashed her hand when she attempted to call for help. For more than a decade, the suspect eluded justice; but he was eventually caught because of the commitment of the Willoughby Police Department and expertise of the Lake County Crime Laboratory. Nowadays, it is easy to take the national DNA and large automated fingerprint databases—CODIS and AFIS, respectively—for granted. However, these databases were just beginning to be developed in 1995, as was the powerful forensic DNA technology that is now used in courtrooms every day. In 1995, fingerprints and other forensic evidence were collected from the crime scene. But the samples did not match any of the various suspects, and the case went cold. However, those fingerprints and the DNA evidence still held the keys to the suspect’s eventual identification and conviction 12 years later. The Willoughby Police Department and the Lake County Crime Laboratory’s DNA analysts had carefully collected, analyzed, and preserved the biological evidence from the case. Investigators realized that improvements in forensic technology since the initial investigation might hold the key to bringing the rapist to justice. In 2002, the Lake County Crime Laboratory retested the evidence using up-to-date technology so that the resulting DNA profile could be searched in CODIS—a national DNA database. Unfortunately, there were still no matches for the offender’s DNA records in Ohio or across the nation. The case’s big break came in March 2007 when a LCCL Fingerprint Examiner searched AFIS—the automated fingerprint database—with the prints that had been collected in 1995. AFIS had been recently updated and incorporated new algorithms that searched all latent prints more thoroughly. But even with the updated technology, confirming an AFIS hit is still a meticulous process that requires the expertise of a highly skilled examiner. But the difficult work was worthwhile because the Lake County Crime Lab's senior fingerprint examiner identified a match. The suspect was Charles Henry Ware III, a 37-year-old family man with an almost spotless record. (Hence his absence from CODIS.) Back in 1995, the victim’s family knew him as a neighborhood teenager. Ware had a clean record with one exception: a drunken driving arrest in 1997 that led to the fingerprints being recorded in the AFIS. With a suspect identified via a fingerprint match, the Lake County Crime Lab was able to match the DNA evidence from the sexual assault to a cheek swab from Ware, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he was indeed responsible for the horrible incident from 1995. As a result of the good work of the Willoughby Police and the Lake County Crime Lab, Ware was convicted in August 2007 and sentenced to 21 to 55 years in prison. Twelve years after the crime, justice and closure had finally come for the victim of this terrible crime.

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2018/04/prom_to_remember_gives_teens_w.html We are very proud of our officers for all the great things they do! Sgt. Begovic and Ptl. Fitzgerald are shown in the article along with Ptl. Licursi and Ptl. Kelly further in. Also participating were: Ptl. James Lessick Ptl. Lampela Ptl. Lastoria Ptl. Shirey