During the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 1979, two Hamilton police officers pulled up to a night club in the Hamilton Plaza Shopping Center on a report of a man shot.
They found a large, emotional crowd in the parking lot of Dixie Electric, a popular disco, remembered then-officer Neil Ferdelman. Shortly after, a firefighter checked the man down and said, “he’s dead.”
A group of young women began shrieking. They were all fans of the deceased man — local celebrity and professional boxer Michael Wyant.
“They were kind of like Mike Wyant’s fan club,” Ferdelman recalled during an interview last week with the Journal-News.
Ferdelman, who later retired as chief of the police department and now works as the police chief for the Greenhills Police Department, said he remembers trying to control the large crowd in the dark at 2:30 a.m., including a man who came up and tapped him on the shoulder.
“I said ‘You are going to have to stand back,’” Ferdelman recalled telling the man. “And he said, ‘Well I just wanted to tell you I shot him.’”
That man, who made the officers’ job easy that night, was Terry L. Wogenstahl.
“He just came up and told us and we took him in,” Ferdelman said, adding that Wogenstahl still had the gun he used in his hands.
Wogenstahl was charged with voluntary manslaughter, but was never indicted by a Butler County grand jury.
His name became synonymous and notorious for killing the boxer, billed as the “Hamilton Hurricane,” in what the grand jury apparently believed was self defense. But it was not the last time Wogenstahl’s name would be in the news.
Nearly 39 years after the shooting, Wogenstahl fell to his death July 31 while working for a construction company dismantling a tower at a West Chester Twp. business. He was 64.
The police file on the 1979 incident has since been purged, but the Hamilton Municipal Court file does still exist and hints that self defense may be why Wogenstahl was never indicted.
“Terry L. Wogenstahl … while under extreme emotional stress brought on by serious provocation reasonably sufficient to incite him into using deadly force, did knowingly cause the death of another … Michael Wyant,” the complaint charging Wogenstahl states.
Ferdelman also recalled hearing the self defense argument.
“I believe the argument for it was Mike Wyant’s hands were deadly weapons because he was such a skilled fighter,” he said.
Wyant was shot once in the head, according to the autopsy report that is part of the court file.
Wogenstahl posted a $5,000 bond and was released from jail.
The case was bound over to grand jury after a hearing in municipal court, and in October 1979, Butler County Prosecutor John Holcomb announced the results. The charge against Wogenstahl was ignored by the grand jury.
“I think it is fair to say that according to (then) Assistant Prosecutor Mike Gmoser who handled the case that there were witnesses on one side, witnesses on the other side and a few independent witnesses and everyone told different stories to the extent that the jury could not come to any other conclusion than it did,” Holcomb said in a Oct. 5, 1979, Journal-News article.
Wyant had a history of brawls in and out of the ring, Holcomb said at the time, adding that 24 witnesses testified at grand jury “and there were 24 stories.”
Gmoser, now Butler County Prosecutor, said when he heard about Wogenstahl’s death, the old case became vivid to him again. The death and outcome was the talk of the town and people passionately took sides, he said.
“(Wyant) was the Rocky of Hamilton, but he didn’t have the disposition of Rocky,” Gmoser said.
There were witnesses who said Wogenstahl had reason to believe was “going get the snot beaten out of him by Wyant,” he recalled.
“The law does not require you to suffer injury of great bodily harm before defending yourself,” Gmoser said.
“He (Wyant) was shot at close range, they were toe to toe and he (Wyant) was advancing,” the prosecutor said.
Wogenstahl’s death last month remains under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
Wyant was 29 years old when he died, according to a Journal-News article on Aug. 13, 1979, with the headline “Wyant’s death: violent end to a violent life”
During his Marine tour of duty, Wyant was All-Marine boxing champion, All-Service boxing champion and won a Golden Gloves championship in North Carolina. After discharge from the service, Wyant turned professional and fought in the Midwest, according to Journal-News archives. His professional boxing record was 19 wins, two losses and 15 knockouts.