Sheriff: Miami County homicides rare, victim usually knows killer

The death of Samantha Freels from a gunshot wound investigators allege was fired by her husband was an unusual event in a county that continues to be a safe place, Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said.

Freels, 52, of Union Twp., died Jan. 12 of a wound found while deputies were investigating what initially was thought to be a fatal crash involving her vehicle off Ohio 55 in Union Twp. She worked as a digital sales specialist for Cox Media Group Ohio, parent company of the Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV.

Her husband Randy Freels, 57, was charged with murder and is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

“Our homicide rate has been fairly consistent over the years. We get an occasional one, it is dealt with,” said sheriff’s Chief Deputy Steve Lord, who has investigated deaths and cold-case deaths in his more than 20 years with the department.

“We deal with traffic fatalities more than intentional deaths,” he said.

Duchak said Miami County “really is a safe county. It has been. There’s a lot of good people that live in the county, and I think Miami County has a lot of good law enforcement all around. Everybody works together.”

When homicides occur, though, they usually are at the hands of someone the victim knows, Lord said.

He and Duchak wouldn’t discuss details of Samantha Freels’ death because the investigation is pending.

“We filed the charge and don’t say anything about it. Now the prosecutor has it. I think people can draw their own conclusions,” Lord said.

“Our feeling in that potential case is the family suffered a great loss, and we are going to pursue it through the system and seek whatever measure of justice that the family can receive. He is innocent until proven guilty. We are assembling a case to go to court,” Lord added.

The number of the county’s reported domestic violence and domestic dispute cases have been fairly consistent each of the past three years, Duchak said.

The most common cases are those in which one party pushed another, someone was hit or there was a physical altercation such as fighting over the phone as one party attempted to call police, Lord said.

The number of cases of domestic violence seen at the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County also have been steady the past three years, said Barb Holman, the shelter’s executive director. The shelter housed 88 women because of domestic violence in 2015, 75 in 2016 and 79 last year. The shelter, which has 22 beds, also houses children.

In addition, Homan said the shelter works with about 600 women a year with services such as crisis intervention, safety planning and court related services such as assisting in filing civil protection orders.

“Safety is our big thing,” she said.

The shelter is seeing more people who have disabilities or who are older who are getting out of abusive situations, she said.

“We have had a couple of cases where people moved in with grandparents and quickly exploited them. The grandparents left home to get away from the abuse. We housed them,” Homan said.

The shelter also has seen an increase in physical injuries, likely linked to drug/alcohol abuse, she said.

“There is more violence, but it is still very shocking when it happens,” Homan said. “We are deeply saddened someone has lost their life. If people are in a bad relationship, help is available. There are programs in every county, and they will help. Please reach out.”

In Miami County, the shelter can be reached by calling 937-339-6761 or the crisis hotline after hours/weekends at 1-800-351-7347.

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