(Posted June 14, 2021)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
A 35-year-old man from Franklin County has been charged with murdering four people in West Jefferson last month.
On June 14, West Jefferson Police Chief Christopher Floyd announced at a press conference that four counts of murder have been filed with Madison County Municipal Court against John Paul “J.P.” Steckel. Additional charges will be requested in a grand jury hearing.
The Columbus Division of Police arrested Steckel approximately two weeks ago on unrelated charges stemming from a probation violation. He has been in the Franklin County Jail since that time. He has an extensive criminal history.
“It’s extensive to the point that he had a parole officer with Franklin County, as well as state and federal parole officers,” Floyd said.
“His name came to us in the first day as a possible suspect,” the chief continued.
Video footage from residential and business surveillance cameras allowed investigators to piece together a timeline for the crime and positively identify the suspect, he added.
As for motive, Floyd said robbery is a possibility. He noted that the suspect and the victims all knew one another.
The crime was perpetrated on May 24. The West Jefferson Police Department received a 911 call of a male with a possible gunshot wound lying at the rear of 127 Jackson St. Upon arriving at the scene, officers found one male lying outside the entry door of the home and two males and one female inside the home. All four had suffered gunshot wounds and were pronounced dead at the scene.
The victims were: Andrew Thomas Swindall, 45, of West Jefferson; Shawn A. Wright, 45, of London; Jamie Danielle Lavender, 30, of Springfield; and Leon Billy Daniels, 38, of London.
West Jefferson Police conducted the investigation with assistance from the Madison County and Franklin County sheriff’s offices, the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
“This was a lot of teamwork and a lot of hard work done by all the agencies,” Floyd said. “All these agencies came together and worked amazingly hand-in-hand.”
Floyd said the last murder in West Jefferson was approximately 10 years ago.
“Things like this don’t normally happen in nice, small towns like West Jefferson, but obviously they can,” he said.
Mayor Ray Justice offered condolences to the families and friends of the victims, saying they have “endured under this hardship too long.”
Floyd said the next step involves pulling together the entire case file to present to Madison County Prosecutor Nicholas Adkins who will review it and present charges to a special grand jury.