Witness Says She Thinks Woman Messed With Businessman's Drink

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) - A businessman found buried in a shallow grave was drugged before he was killed, prosecutors said Tuesday during a trial for a man accused of helping kidnap the victim.

Wood County Prosecutor Alan Mayberry said that a woman charged with killing Fred Smith put something in his drink just before they walked out of a bar together last July.

The bar manager who served Smith and his friends said she thinks Tabatha Ulsh was "putting something into his drink."

"I thought something weird had gone on," Cori Burschnell said as testimony began in the case against Joe Alexander.

Prosecutors say Alexander, of Fostoria, tackled and beat Smith after he tried to run away from Ulsh and Jimmie Woodland, Alexander's half-brother.

Ulsh and Woodland are charged with killing Smith and taking his credit cards and Chevy Blazer so they could get to Mexico. Both could face the death penalty if convicted.

Smith, of Eaton in southwest Ohio, had traveled to Findlay to compete in a trapshooting contest. His body was found July 24 about 15 miles from where he was last seen at the bar with friends.

Alexander is charged with felonious assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, intimidation of witnesses and tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors say Smith may have escaped if Alexander had not grabbed him.

"He grabbed him in a headlock and slammed him to a sidewalk," Mayberry said. "He immediately began kicking Fred in the head."

Defense attorney Scott Coon said Alexander was walking down a street and grabbed Smith only because he heard Woodland yelling to stop him.

"Joe did not know of any plan to kill this man," Coon said. "He had no idea what was going on that night."

Coon also said during opening statements that Alexander didn't beat up Smith, noting that police found none of Smith's blood on Alexander's shoes.

Jon Tornow, of Fostoria, drove upon the scene and testified he saw Alexander repeatedly kicking Smith and help Woodland and Ulsh put the lifeless body in the Blazer.

Smith, a married father of three, traveled about two hours north from his home for the trapshooting tournament.

Shooting clay targets was a passion for the president of Rexarc International Inc. -- a company that makes welding equipment.

After the first day of competition, he went to Wooley Bulley's bar to unwind with two friends.

His widow, Denise Smith, testified Tuesday that he rarely drank.

She said she started to worry after he failed to show up for a family reunion that weekend.

Authorities have said Ulsh and Woodland knocked Smith unconscious with a shovel, hitting him so violently in the head that the shovel's spade snapped off. They used another shovel to dig his grave, authorities said.

Woodland's mother, Mary Jane Woodland, admitted she returned one of the shovels to a Wal-Mart for a refund. She was sentenced to one year in prison on tampering with evidence and obstructing justice charges.

Police recovered Smith's Blazer with a bloodstained back seat when Ulsh and Woodland were caught trying to re-enter the United States from Mexico.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)