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NEW INFO: Second Mistrial Declared in Vinton County Murder, Arson Case

By: Kristen Schneider; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Kristen Schneider; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 9/6/13
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- For a second time, a mistrial has been declared for a man charged with murder in Vinton County, Ohio.

The retrial for Robert Schall, 49, of Hillsboro, Ohio, ended Thursday, while prosecutors were presenting their case.

Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown tells WSAZ.com that a Vinton County Sheriff's Deputy gave a juror a ride home from the trial, and that began an investigation into a possible tainted jury.

The judge declared a mistrial in the case.

Sheriff Shawn Justice told the Vinton County Courrier it was a “complete error “ by the deputy, who had testified in the trial.

Schall was on trial for the murder of 55-year-old Michael Hunt. Hunt was found dead in his burned out home on Albright Road in Eagle Township in October 2011.

Schall is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson and aggravated robbery.

His first trial in April ended in a mistrial after jurors said they could not reach a verdict after deliberating three hours.

Prosecutor Kimes-Brown tells WSAZ.com that there will be a third trial in this case. A date has not been set.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 9/5/13 @ 10:05 a.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A man is facing a jury for the second time in a murder case in Vinton County, Ohio.

The retrial for Robert Schall, 49, of Hillsboro, Ohio, started Wednesday.

The charges stem back to the death of Michael Hunt. The 55-year-old was found dead in his burned out home on Albright Road in Eagle Township in October 2011.

In April, Schall went on trial for aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson and aggravated robbery.

But after three hours of deliberations, the jury said they could not reach a verdict. As a result, a mistrial was declared.

According to the Vinton County Prosecutor's Office the new trial is expected to wrap up Friday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



UPDATE 4/18/13 @ 3 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The man at the center of a murder case will now go through a second trial.

The trial for Robert Schall, of Hillsboro, Ohio, started Tuesday in Vinton County, Ohio.

Schall is charged with aggravated murder, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated arson and one count of aggravated robbery. The charges stem from Schall's alleged role in the death of Michael Hunt.

Hunt, 55, was found dead after his home caught fire on Albright Road on Oct. 7, 2011.

It took investigators more than a month to learn that Hunt had been murdered before his home was set on fire.

On Wednesday, the case went to jury. After three hours of deliberations, the jury said they could not reach a verdict. As a result, a mistrial was declared.

A date for that trial has yet to be set.

Celena Danner, 28, of Hillsboro, Ohio, was also charged with aggravated murder, arson and burglary in connection with Hunt's death.

In January 2012, Danner made a plea deal and pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice. The other charges were dropped. Danner is also required to testify against Schall during trial.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 1/25/12
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- One of the two people charged in the murder of a Vinton County man has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges.

Michael Hunt, 55, was found dead after his home caught fire on Albright Road on Oct. 7.

In November, Robert Schall, and Celena Danner, both of Hillsboro, Ohio, were arrested for their alleged roles in crime.

Later, a grand jury returned aggravated murder, arson and burglary charges against the pair.

On Monday, Danner pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice. The other charges were dropped. She is also expected to testify against Schall as part of that deal. During the hearing, Danner’s bond was also reduced from $1 million to $25,000. She could face a maximum 12 months in jail when she is sentenced.

Schall is expected back in court for a pre-trial on March 1.

A trial date has not been set.



UPDATE 12/14/11 @ 3:30 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The two people charged in the murder of a Vinton County man were in court Wednesday.

Michael Hunt. 55, was found dead after his home caught fire on Albright Road on Oct. 7. Investigators ruled the death a murder and arson

In early November, Robert Schall, 47, and Celena Danner, 28, both of Hillsboro, Ohio, were arrested for their alleged roles in crime.

Late last month, a grand jury returned aggravated murder, arson and burglary charges against Schall and Danner.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the pair’s bond was continued at $1 million. A pre-trial hearing was also scheduled for January 23. No trial date has been set at this time.

Both remain in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail.



UPDATE 11/28/11 @ 3:30 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A grand jury has returned aggravated murder charges against the man and woman who investigators say killed Michael Hunt.

Hunt, 55, was found dead after his home caught fire on Albright Road, in Vinton County, on October 7. Investigators ruled the death a murder and arson.

In early November, Robert Schall, 47, and Celena Danner, 28, both of Hillsboro, Ohio, were arrested for their alleged roles in crime.

Beside the aggravated murder count in the indictment, each is also charged with aggravated arson, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. The pair could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of the murder and arson.

Both remain in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail on $1,000,000 bond each.

Their next court hearing is set for December 14 in Vinton County Common Pleas Court.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this case.



UPDATE 11/8/11 @ 1 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Two people have been arrested in connection with a murder and arson in Vinton County, Ohio last month.

Michael Hunt, 55, was found dead after his home caught fire on Albright Road in Eagle Township on October 7. Investigators ruled the death a murder and the fire an arson.

After a month of investigating, Vinton County Sheriff Shawn Justice tells WSAZ.com that two people have been arrested in Highland County, Ohio in connection with the case.

Robert W. Schall, 47, and Celena J. Danner, 28, both of Paint Township were arrested Monday night in the Hillsboro, Ohio area.

Schall is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated arson and aggravated burglary.

Danner is charged with complicity to aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated arson and complicity to aggravated burglary.

Sheriff Justice is not releasing a motive for the murder and arson has not been released.

A search warrant was executed Monday night at the Paint Township residence of Schall and Danner by the Highland County Sheriff's Office, During the search, additional evidence relating to the crime was discovered.

Schall and Danner will be held at the Highland County Justice Center pending transfer to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this case.



UPDATE 10/12/11 @ 10:30 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The man who died in what investigators say is an arson/homicide has been identified, according to information from the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office.

The victim is Michael Hunt, 55, of Eagle Township in Vinton County. Dr. Rebecca Huston, the Vinton County coroner, made the positive identification.

State fire investigators and the Vinton County Sheriff's Office continue to investigate the incident, which occurred about 10:30 p.m. Friday at a mobile home along Albright Road.

Investigators are continuing to interview neighbors and witnesses; they also are following up on information provided through tips and the investigative process.

A Blue Ribbon Arson Reward of up to $5,000 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the identification of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-589-2728.



UPDATE 10/11/11 @ 3:10 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The State Fire Marshal and the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office are continuing their investigation into what they say was murder and arson Friday night.

The incident happened at a mobile home at 51485 Albright Road in Laurelville.

The man who lived in the trailer was found dead after the fire was put out. Investigators are still working on a positive ID.

Debris from the fire and evidence collected at the scene has been sent to the State Fire Marshal’s Lab for analysis.

Investigators also continue to follow up on leads and information provided through interviews.

A Blue Ribbon Arson Reward of $5,000 is being offered to anyone with helpful information.

If you know anything that may be useful you’re asked to call 1-800-589-2728. No tip should be considered small or insignificant.



UPDATE 10/9/11 @ 10 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- People in the Jimtown area of Vinton County are hoping to find out exactly what happened Friday night.

"You hear a lot of rumors, but nobody really knows for sure yet," Jimtown resident Jeff Lindsey said.

Neighbors say about 10:30 Friday night, they saw flames shooting out of a mobile home on Albright Road.

It first appeared the man who lived in trailer died in the fire, but after the autopsy, investigators say he was killed before the fire started.

They're not releasing any details about how he died or how the fire started yet, but they are calling it arson.

"He lived there by himself,” Ken Routte, the victim's landlord, said. “He had friends come in and out. I didn't know them."

Routte says a week ago two people tried to break into the victim’s mobile home.

"They tried to break in the house, and he ran them off," Routte said.

Whether that attempted break-in may have any relation to his death is unclear.

State Fire Marshal spokesman Shane Cartmill says they're hoping the public will help lead to a suspect.

"What happens in these types of cases is someone will confide in someone, someone will talk about this case with an unusual amount of interest or knowledge, and when you hear that, that's what we want to hear from," Cartmill said.

In the meantime, people in the normally quiet Jimtown are worried knowing the man's killer is, for now, walking free.

"I'm very concerned like everybody is,” Lindsey said. “I just live down the road. I hope they get an answer."

A Blue Ribbon Arson Reward of $5,000 is being offered to anyone with helpful information.

If you know anything that may be useful you’re asked to call 1-800-589-2728.



UPDATE 10/9/11 @ 1:30 p.m.
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A homicide investigation is underway following the discovery of a body at a trailer that was set on fire and burnt to the ground.

Ohio State Fire officials tell WSAZ.com the fire broke out about 10:30 p.m. Friday at a trailer along Albright Road in Laurelville.

Investigators say they have now determined the man was killed before the fire started.

No other details about the man's death or how the fire started are being released at this time.

A Blue Ribbon Arson Reward of up to $5,000 is now being offered for information leading to the identification of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

Anyone with information should call 1-800-589-2728. No tip should be considered insignificant.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 10/8/11
VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A suspicious fire left a man dead and investigators trying to figure out how it started.

It happened Friday about 10:30 p.m at a mobile home on Albright Road in Laurelville.

Investigators with the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office have not yet identified who the man is or how he died.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is being treating as a possible arson.

Investigators have not yet determined if smoke alarms were in the building.


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