The widow of Robert Caldwell who was gunned down in a parking lot of a Riverside business in front of his three sons is filing a lawsuit against the sheriff's office and two other individuals, including the shooter. The victim's wife said her husband was targeted days prior to him being killed and no protection was given.

Lawsuit: Woman used escort service funds to pay for murder of Beavercreek man

The murder of a Beavercreek man in front of his three sons was funded with proceeds of high-dollar escort work by one of his ex-wife’s relatives, a lawsuit claims.

Lisa R. Thomas used money from her escort work and from owning and operating an animal grooming business in Centerville to bankroll a conspiracy that led to two attempts on Robert “Bobby” Caldwell’s life, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Robert Caldwell, 35, was shot and killed Aug. 15, 2017, in a Riverside parking lot in front of three of his children.

Thomas, the aunt of Robert Caldwell’s ex-wife, Tawnney (Thomas) Caldwell, was given $30,000 per month from a Michigan businessman for her “exclusive escort services,” according to records contained in a lawsuit between Thomas and the businessman.

 

The complicated tale includes multiple lawsuits, six federally indicted co-defendants, allegations against Thomas, her daughter Staci and Greene County law enforcement. 

Jacob Caldwell, 15, who went missing days after seeing his father killed, was located Aug. 28, 2018, in a Miami Twp. home. Jacob is now in custody for his own safety and for being a multiple-time runaway, according to a Greene County Juvenile Court judge.

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Sterling Roberts, Tawnney Caldwell’s boyfriend, has been indicted as the shooter in the killing. In November 2017, Roberts pleaded guilty in federal court in South Carolina to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Roberts has not been sentenced in that case.

Tawnney Caldwell was in Dayton’s U.S. District Court for a hearing last week, and her trial was continued. No new date has been set. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose recently granted a motion to appoint David Doughten as an attorney to represent Tawnney Caldwell. Doughten has experience defending clients facing the death penalty, which prosecutors could seek against her.

Tawnney Caldwell’s attorneys, Jon Paul Rion and Doughten, declined to comment about the Thomas family’s alleged involvement in the escort business.

The wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by Robert Caldwell’s widow, Candice Caldwell, claims Lisa and Staci Thomas were part of the conspiracy against Robert Caldwell that included disposing of the murder weapon and transporting Sterling Roberts in and out of Ohio.

“Lisa runs an escort and/or prostitution business,” the complaint says. “Lisa used the money she earned from the escort and/or prostitution business to assist in the commission of (Robert’s) death.”

Hugh Bode, a Cleveland attorney who has represented Lisa Thomas in other cases, said the accusations are false.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, those claims before … where a widow is claiming that multiple people are somehow liable to her for the death of her husband who was murdered by someone else,” Bode said. “So how do these lawyers for the widow Caldwell, what’s their information that any money came from Lisa? I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I haven’t seen anything like this. To me, it seems to be completely unfounded.”

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Bode denied Lisa Thomas and her daughter were involved in Robert Caldwell’s killing.

“I think this wrongful death suit is borderline frivolous against Lisa and Staci,” Bode said. “It revolves around the death of Robert Caldwell. They didn’t have anything to do with that. Anything. Nothing at all.

“According to the complaint, everybody’s conspiring against the Caldwells, including the sheriff.”

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The defendants in the wrongful death civil case include:

• Tawnney (Thomas) Caldwell

• Lisa Thomas

• Sterling Roberts, Tawnney Caldwell’s boyfriend

• Christopher Roberts and Chance Deakin, Sterling Roberts’ brothers

• Jeanine Roberts, Sterling Roberts’ mother

• Chandra (Thomas) Harmon, Lisa Thomas’ mother

• James Harmon, Chandra Harmon’s husband

• Staci Thomas, Lisa’s daughter

• Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer, sheriff’s Det. Kelly Edwards and a Jane Doe 911 dispatcher.

Another attorney for Lisa Thomas, Kenneth Ignozzi, did not return a message seeking comment.

A lawsuit unrelated to Robert Caldwell’s death includes more details in court records about the relationship that Lisa Thomas claims earned her significant income.

That ongoing civil lawsuit was filed in 2016 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court between Lisa Thomas and Michigan businessman George Helms. The case started when Helms sued Lisa Thomas in July 2016 for failing to make mandatory capital contributions to R Boulevard Properties LLC and that she “frustrated the economic purpose of the company.”

The LLC, with Helms and Lisa Thomas as co-owners, purchased the residence at 9397 Ridings Boulevard in Centerville for $925,000 in October 2013. The home has six bedrooms, 5.5 baths and 5,076 square feet, including 2,000 square feet of finished basement area with a saltwater pool and hot tub, according to online property records. A for sale sign is currently in its yard.

R Boulevard Properties LLC, partly owned by Lisa Thomas and Michigan businessman George Helms, purchased the residence at 9397 Ridings Boulevard in Centerville for $925,000 in October 2013. Thomas and Helms are involved in a lawsuit about the LLC. MARK GOKAVI / STAFF
Photo: HANDOUT

Lisa Thomas filed a counter claim in which she claimed “at no time was she engaged in the business of prostitution” but admits to operating as an escort.

Lisa Thomas’ claims against Helms included that: Helms paid off her debt; took her on a two-week trip to China; paid for seven years’ of Staci’s college tuition; rented her a condo in Michigan; paid off her $12,169.99 Porsche car loan; bought Staci Thomas a ML350 Mercedes and later a horse; and bought Lisa Thomas a Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Lisa Thomas claimed Helms was jealous that she had other clients and that they came to an agreement “that he would give Thomas a home and a lifetime of financial support in exchange for her exclusive escort services.”

Thomas claims the LLC was formed to pay her for her services and gifts and to keep Helms’ wife unaware of the arrangement.

Lisa Thomas said Helms put about $30,000 per month into the LLC account from November 2013 until March 2016 when Helms stopped payment.

Edward Plato, an attorney representing George Helms, wrote in an email that Helms has not had contact with Lisa Thomas or anyone in the family since February 2016, a year and a half before the murder of Robert Caldwell. Helms denies paying Lisa Thomas for escort services, Plato said. 

“The allegations of Lisa Thomas in her Counter-Complaint are ridiculous and complete fabrications are simply an attempt by Lisa Thomas to extort money from George Helms in retaliation for his attempt to dissolve the company,” Plato wrote.

Bode said Lisa Thomas is living off her credit cards and that he didn’t know what kind of lifestyle she lived. Bode also said Jan’s Grooming is “not an extremely lucrative business.”

Tawnney Caldwell’s attorneys were granted a continuance in her trial, with a trial date likely to be set by a Nov. 1 scheduling conference.

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