Miami County man sentenced to prison in wife’s murder

Randy Freels, who investigators said fatally shot his wife in her car along Ohio 55 in Union Twp. in January before tossing a handgun in a nearby creek, was sentenced Tuesday, July 17, to 18 years to life in prison.

ExploreRELATED: Miami County husband admits to murder in wife’s slaying; sentencing set for July

Freels, 57, of Ludlow Falls pleaded no contest and was found guilty in May in the Jan. 12 murder of Samantha Freels, 52. She was found dead in her car that went off the road during an afternoon snowstorm.

ExploreMORE: Miami County man being held on murder charges in wife’s death transferred for psychiatric treatment

Randy Freels was found guilty of murder, tampering with evidence, felonious assault and two firearms specifications in a plea deal with Miami County prosecutors. A charge of improper discharge of a firearm was dismissed and prosecutors agreed to recommend 18 years to life in prison.

>>Latest local news from the Northern Bureau

Freels also agreed to return to the family property that was confiscated following the death except for items used in the criminal offenses. More than 40 firearms were seized from his home following the murder.

>>Local Weather: Track the latest conditions with Live WHIO Doppler 7 Radar

Samantha Freels' daughter in law, Erica, told Common Pleas Judge Jeannine Pratt at sentencing she died eight days prior to her marriage to her son. She recalled how she traveled with Samantha Freels as she received treatment for cancer that had returned in previous months.

Erica Freels called Samantha Freels "the heart and soul" of the Freels' family, a woman who kept secret her abuse so family wouldn't worry.

Samantha Freels' father, Billy J. Howard, said the recommended sentence wasn't enough. "This 18 to life that ain't going to get it from me," he said.

Pratt said Freels lied to investigators to cover his tracks. "You sir, murdered your wife, a woman who cared for you, in cold blood a week before your son's wedding," she said. "The sentence will pale in comparison to your ultimate judgment."

Freels sat looking down at the defense table as family members spoke in court. He declined comment.

Pratt also praised the work of law enforcement, who arrested Freels at his home later Jan. 12 without incident after being told he owned a large number of firearms

County Prosecutor Tony Kendell said prosecutors in coming years would diligently watch the Freels case and attend any parole hearings in an effort "to make sure he never sees the light of day again."

Investigative reports released following Freels’ plea showed he told investigators he had not left his home the day Samantha Freels died. However, he was seen by multiple witnesses and on a police cruiser cam hanging around the crime scene.

One witness said a man he later identified as Freels was walking around Samantha Freels’ car in the creek, banging on the car with his hand and yelling, “Wake up lady,” while holding a brown bag and eating food. The witness said he couldn’t find a pulse for the victim inside and called 911.

Samantha Freels’ death was attributed to a gunshot wound to the torso. A .380 caliber bullet was recovered and a .380 caliber Bersa semi-automatic handgun was found in the creek area. The gun was registered to Randy Freels.

Freels said during the police interview he was agitated when talking with his one son earlier in the day because his wife was working. “I was upset because she just keeps working and she just needs to stay home,” he was quoted as saying.

About the Author