The Long Walk Home: The Asenath Dukat Project
[All information regarding this suspect is strictly based on (1) factual information contained in reports from the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Citizen-Journal, and UA News and (2) indisputable, well-known facts such as geographical information. Any inferences that may be derived from this factual information do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the members of this project. Nobody has ever been charged with the murder of Asenath Dukat.]
The first suspect to receive extensive media coverage was quickly identified by Upper Arlington police. Brent Strutner, who we will call Suspect1, was a 20-year-old man. (Columbus Dispatch June 9, 1980) He graduated from Upper Arlington High School in 1979 and spent a significant portion of his childhood in a home about one-half mile from Tremont Elementary School. (UA News July 16, 1980; Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980).
At the time of Asenath’s murder, Suspect1 lived just outside of UA in an apartment building at 1855 Independence Road – about a mile-and-a-half from the corner of Waltham and Hillside. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980)
Suspect1 exhibited violent behavior in the days before Asenath’s murder.
On May 30, 1980, Suspect1 was involved in an altercation with the Grandview Heights police.
Suspect1 “was arrested after officers responded to Grandview Avenue, near First Avenue, on a complaint of a man acting strangely and breaking glass on the street.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 11, 1980) When the Grandview police arrived on the scene at approximately 9:25 a.m., Suspect1 “leaped and crawled over a car moving about 15 miles an hour trying to escape from officers.” (Columbus Dispatch October 15, 1980; Columbus Dispatch July 10, 1980) The police then chased Suspect1, and a fight ensued before Suspect1 could be taken into custody. (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 11, 1980) One officer “said police worked about five minutes to control [Suspect1] who kicked, swung his arms and screamed when arrested.” (Columbus Dispatch October 15, 1980) As a result of this incident, Suspect1 was charged with one count of resisting arrest, two counts of assault on a police officer, and one count of marijuana possession. (Columbus Dispatch July 10, 1980)
The UAPD initially became interested in Suspect1 because of his unusual behavior the night of the murder. That night, Suspect1 and some of his friends visited a bar near The Ohio State University campus. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980; Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) Apparently, while in the bar, Suspect1 was seen “weeping” or “crying.” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980; Columbus Dispatch June 9, 1980) He told other bar patrons that “he was afraid to go back to his apartment” and that “he could not go home.” (Columbus Dispatch June 9, 1980; Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) When his friends took Suspect1 home that night, Suspect1 stated he did not want to enter his residence because “they are after me.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) The UAPD learned about Suspect1’s behavior through an anonymous phone call. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980; Columbus Dispatch June 9, 1980)
After Suspect1 was identified, various witnesses provided information about his whereabouts on the day of Asenath’s murder and, potentially, at the time of the May 7th attack. For example, on June 3, 1980, Suspect1 was seen on Upper Arlington’s south side at approximately 3pm. (Columbus Citizen-Journal June 9, 1980) The UAPD later claimed a witness may have seen Suspect1 in the immediate vicinity of Waltham, Hillside, and Malvern Roads. Apparently, an “auxiliary Franklin County sherrif’s (sic) deputy spotted a man standing on the service road between Waltham Road and the First Community Village at 2:10 p.m. on the date” of Asenath’s murder. (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) The UAPD said the auxiliary deputy “was shown a group of photographs, and he picked [Suspect1’s] picture as most resembling the man he saw on the service road.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980)
Finally, after Suspect1 was identified, the UAPD shared photographs of Suspect1 with witnesses from the May 7th attack. Notably, the girl “attacked May 7 at U.S. Route 33 and Canterbury Lane and a friend with her minutes before the attack both chose [Suspect1’s] picture from a group of 10 photographs as the man who looked ‘most like’ the person they had seen shortly before the attack.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10)
Suspect1 also attracted interest because of the red-10-speed bicycle seen near the crimes on May 7 and June 3. The UAPD noted that Suspect1 had “been known to ride a red 10-speed bicycle which matches the description of one seen by witnesses.” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) More specifically, friends of Suspect1 “told police he [owned] a red, 10-speed bicycle he quit riding ‘immediately after the assault of May 7.’” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980)
Furthermore, the day after Asenath’s murder, one of Suspect1’s “friends noticed [Suspect1’s] bike in the friend’s garage, and [Suspect1] said he didn’t want to ride it anymore.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980)
Reports differed as to whether Suspect1 matched the well-known composite drawing of Asenath’s suspected killer. In one report, UA Police Chief Kenneth Borror “was reluctant to call [Suspect1] a prime suspect, saying he does not match the composite sketch of the killer put together by police.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal June 9, 1980) However, a later report claimed the UAPD was “interested in” Suspect1 because, among other things, he “resemble[d] a composite drawing of the suspected killer made by police artists.” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980)
After the UAPD received the anonymous phone call about Suspect1’s behavior the night of Asenath’s murder, “detectives sought [Suspect1] for questioning, but found his apartment abandoned.” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980)
Suspect1 had fled the Central Ohio area. The UAPD subsequently learned that Suspect1 visited a friend’s home on June 5, 1980 – two days after Asenath’s murder. While visiting his friend, Suspect1 peered out the windows and stated, “‘Are the cops coming? … If the cops don’t quit hassling me, I’m going to kill them.’” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) Then, while leaving his friend’s home, Suspect1 said, “‘I got to get out of here, they’re going to bust me.’” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980)
At 11:30 p.m. that night, Suspect1 returned to his childhood home near Tremont Elementary School and took his parents’ car. Suspect1 then drove north toward the Cleveland, Ohio area. Suspect1 exhibited even more violent, unusual behavior while in Northeast Ohio.
On June 6, 1980, at about 7:45 a.m., police officers found Suspect1 stranded in an automobile in Willoughby, Ohio – a suburb of Cleveland. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) “When officers approached [Suspect1’s] car, he closed the window and began to jab himself in the groin with a loaded hypodermic syringe…. Officers, who said they were forced to break the car’s window to subdue [Suspect1], said they scuffled with him outside of his car and again at the police station when they tried to move him to a holding cell.” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) The Willoughby Police Chief explained that Suspect1 “‘was acting wild, like he was on drugs or something’” and put up “‘quite a physical battle.’” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) As a result of the June 6, 1980 incident, Suspect1 was charged with attacking police officers, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and illegal possession of a hypodermic needle. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) As far as we can determine, the contents of the hypodermic needle have never been publicly disclosed.
After the UAPD learned that Suspect1 was in custody, two UA detectives drove to Willoughby to question Suspect1 about the Dukat murder. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) The detectives did not mention “the purpose of the questioning, but [Suspect1] immediately said he ‘didn’t hurt anyone.’” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) The UA detectives questioned Suspect1 for two hours on June 8, 1980, and apparently, Suspect1 even agreed to take a polygraph test. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980; Columbus Citizen-Journal July 9, 1980) But on the advice of his attorney, Suspect1 refused to take the test and stopped talking to police. (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 9, 1980)
Eventually, the UAPD obtained a sample of Suspect1’s blood. The police also obtained a search warrant for Suspect1’s apartment. After searching the apartment, officers “confiscated a pair of white tennis shoes, a pair of red corduroy pants, a white washcloth containing brownish stains, a short-sleeve shirt and hair samples.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) The confiscated items and Suspect1’s blood sample were sent to the FBI for testing. Obviously, the tests performed on the blood and other items never led to an indictment. And although he received more intense media scrutiny, the UAPD noted Suspect1 was “one of as many as 15 persons being investigated in the slaying.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980)
Many reports about Suspect1’s mental health emerged as he dealt with his legal issues in Willoughby and Grandview Heights. A Willoughby Municipal Court Judge “said a social worker told her [Suspect1 had] a history of mental illness and the social worker [believed Suspect1] to be ‘paranoid.’” (Columbus Dispatch July 10, 1980) The judge then ordered Suspect1 “to receive extensive psychiatric examination while in jail.” (Columbus Dispatch July 10, 1980) Suspect1 also pled not guilty by reason of insanity “to charges that he assaulted two Grandview Heights police officers” on May 30, 1980. (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 19, 1980) As a result, Suspect1 was tested for mental competency by the Forensic Psychiatric Center of the Southwest Community Mental Health Center. (Columbus Dispatch September 18, 1980) The results of those tests were leaked to the press. According to the tests, Suspect1 was “‘developmentally still a young teen-ager.’” (Columbus Dispatch September 5, 1980) He had “an ‘impaired ability to recognize unusual, problematic aspects of his behavior’ and was unable to control the ‘unlawful aspects of his responses or refrain from execution of his acts.’” (Columbus Dispatch September 5, 1980) Suspect1 also admitted to illegal drug use and suffered from “occasional hallucinations, paranoia and sometimes has believed furniture was moving in his apartment or doors refused to open for him.” (Columbus Dispatch September 5, 1980) In essence, the report on Suspect1 outlined “a history of domestic unrest, mental instability and drug abuse.” (Columbus Dispatch September 18, 1980)
Eventually, Suspect1 reached a plea bargain on the charges resulting from the June 6, 1980 incident in Willoughby. He pled guilty to “two counts of assaulting police officers, one count of possessing a hypodermic needle and one of resisting arrest.” (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 11, 1980) In return, Suspect1 was sentenced to six months in jail. (Columbus Citizen-Journal July 18, 1980)
Suspect1 also reached a plea bargain on the charges resulting from the May 30, 1980 incident in Grandview Heights. He pled guilty to just one charge: resisting arrest. (Columbus Dispatch October 15, 1980) As a result, the judge “sentenced [Suspect1] to 90 days in jail but suspended 45 days contingent on [Suspect1’s] receiving mental health counseling and paying Grandview Heights police for damaged property.” (Columbus Dispatch October 15, 1980) Suspect1 was to “serve the 45 days after” he completed the six-month jail sentence “he received in the Willoughby Municipal Court.” (Columbus Dispatch October 15, 1980) The prosecutor acknowledged that Suspect1 received a relatively light sentence for the Grandview Heights incident.
Throughout his various legal issues, Suspect1 refused to talk to UA police about Asenath Dukat’s murder. The UAPD commented on Suspect1 and another suspect in November 1980. According to the Columbus Citizen Journal: “Although police still have no prime suspects, they would like to question two men who have been arrested on unrelated charges and have been linked to the Dukat murder.” (Columbus Citizen Journal November 10, 1980) However, attorneys “for the suspects will not allow police to talk to them, and [Upper Arlington Police Chief Kenneth] Borror said police do not have enough evidence to arrest them.” (Columbus Citizen Journal November 10, 1980)
As the first real suspect publicly identified by the UAPD, Suspect1 received a great deal of media attention. For example, in a June 13, 1980 article, the Columbus Dispatch revealed specific details about Suspect1’s parents. As the Dispatch reported: “[Suspect1’s] apartment is about a mile east of the Waltham and Dublin Rds. murder site, while the home of his parents, [the article proceeds to name Suspect1’s parents and their home address] is only about a half mile away.” (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980) (Although most of the cited information was accurate, the Dispatch incorrectly printed the distance between the parents’ house and the site of Asenath Dukat’s murder. In reality, the house was a little more than a mile-and-a-half away.) As a result, Suspect1’s father sued the Columbus Dispatch for invasion of privacy. Both the trial court and the appellate court, however, ruled against Suspect1’s father and in favor of the Dispatch. (2 Ohio App.3d 377, 442 N.E.2d 129 (10th Dist.1982)).
There is no additional, relevant public information related to Suspect1 until 1984.
In June 1984, Suspect1 committed suicide. Apparently, Suspect1 jumped from his room at the Downtown Columbus YMCA. “Police received a call about 4 a.m. [June 8, 1984] that a nude body was lying on the sidewalk on the Front St. side of the Y. [Detective David] Cash said [Suspect1] had been staying alone in a sixth-floor room on that side of the building. The door was locked and the window was open.” (Columbus Dispatch June 8, 1984)
The night before he committed suicide, Suspect1 had a final run in with the Upper Arlington police. According to the UAPD, relatives “of [Suspect1] called police about 6 p.m. [on June 7, 1984] because they wanted [Suspect1] out of their house.” (Columbus Citizen Journal July 9, 1984) Consequently, Upper Arlington medics and a UA police officer accompanied Suspect1 to a hospital. Later, after “a brief stay at the hospital, [Suspect1] was taken to the YMCA by a member of his family.” (Columbus Dispatch June 8, 1984) Suspect1 was found dead early the next morning.
At the time of his suicide, there were conflicting media reports about Suspect1’s potential connection to the Dukat murder. The Columbus Dispatch reported there was never a “‘supergood (sic) alibi for’” Suspect1. (Columbus Dispatch June 8, 1984) The Columbus Citizen Journal, however, reported that Suspect1 “‘had an alibi [the UAPD] couldn’t break.’” (Columbus Citizen Journal June 9, 1984)
Regardless, authorities found nothing of significance at the YMCA that could link Suspect1 to the murder of Asenath Dukat. Nevertheless, June 8, 1984, was just a few days after the four-year anniversary of the murder, and Suspect1’s brother stated: “‘Every year, for the past few years in June [Suspect1] gets this way.’” (Columbus Dispatch June 8, 1984) Some have inferred that this quote, and the timing of Suspect1’s suicide, could have some relation to Asenath Dukat.
Suspect1’s obituary ran in the June 10, 1984 Columbus Dispatch. His memorial service took place on Sunday, June 17, 1984, at the Deyo-Davis Funeral Home in Grandview Heights.
An anonymous phone call led UAPD to the apartment of Suspect1.
We have long known that Suspect1 was seen on Upper Arlington’s south side at 3pm on June 3, 1980. However, we have learned the specific location where Suspect1 was seen that day. On June 3, 1980, at 3pm, Suspect1 was seen at the Jones Junior High School/Devon Pool area. Asenath Dukat passed by this area on her walk home from school that day, and the Jones Junior High School/Devon Pool area is just several hundred feet from where witnesses last saw Asenath. Additionally, a witness identified Suspect1 as the man standing on the service road at First Community Village at 2:10pm on June 3, 1980. The service road ran over the culvert where Asenath’s body was found.
Multiple news outlets reported that Suspect1 and some of his friends visited a bar near The Ohio State University campus the night of June 3. (Columbus Dispatch June 13, 1980; Columbus Citizen-Journal July 10, 1980) As the UAPD investigated Suspect1, they interviewed a number of Suspect1’s friends and acquaintances. One witness said that Suspect1 arrived at her house no earlier than 4:30 p.m. on June 3, perhaps around 5:30 p.m. At around 7:00 p.m., this witness and Suspect1 went to another house in Upper Arlington. From there, Suspect1 and his (at least) two friends went to the bar on North High Street, where they stayed until about 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. After that, Suspect1 and his (at least) two friends went to a trailer off Trabue Road in San Margherita. They stayed at the trailer until about 3:00 a.m. the morning of June 4. At around 3:30 a.m., Suspect1 arrived at his apartment with at least one friend. According to this friend, Suspect1 was afraid to go into his apartment because Suspect1 thought somebody was after him. Additionally, the friend said Suspect1 was acting weird and spacey.
Based on the accounts provided by these witnesses, there wasn’t much time between the abduction of Asenath Dukat and Suspect1 joining his friends later that day. An additional account made the timeline even more challenging for investigators in 1980. Sometime between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on June 3, at least one witness saw Suspect1 playing basketball at a house approximately one-half mile southwest of the Upper Arlington Public Library.
The Long Walk Home: The Asenath Dukat project has obtained a detailed account of the arrest of Suspect1 on June 6th, 1980 with the cooperation of the Willoughby, Ohio Police Department.
[This account is directly sourced from the City of Willoughby Public Records. Any inferences that may be derived from this factual information do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the members of this project. Nobody has ever been charged with the murder of Asenath Dukat.]
As referenced in Chapter 8: Bizarre Behavior Leads to the First Suspect, the UAPD received an anonymous phone call about the behavior of Suspect1 the night of Asenath Dukat’s murder. The UAPD sought Suspect1 for questioning but found his apartment abandoned. On the night of June 5th, two days after Asenath’s murder, Suspect1 returned to his childhood home, took his parents car and headed North toward Cleveland. The following is a detailed report of his encounter with the Willoughby, Ohio Police Department.
On the morning of June 6th, at approximately 7:40am, police received a call from a nearby Sunoco station that a car was in a ditch on the St. Clair exit between Lost Nation and Erie Road. Upon arrival, [Patrolman1] discovered a 1979 Cadillac in a ditch with Suspect1 lying across the front seat.
“After arousing the subject, [Suspect1] was asked to open the door or window. He would not open either. He then started the vehicle and attempted to flee the scene. At this time the police vehicle was in position to block escape and [Patrolman1] got the lockout tool and attempted to open a door. This could not be done because of electric locks.”(Willoughby Crime or Incident Report, Primary: 80-5151)
[Patrolman2] arrived on the scene and was briefed on the situation at hand. [Patrolman2] attempted to persuade Suspect1 to open a door or window which he [Suspect1] wouldn’t do.
“At this time the subject produced a hypo-syringe and took out his testicles and began stabbing the syringe into them. [Patrolman2] then instructed [Patrolman1] to break the window with a nightstick which he did. The suspect began screaming and fighting and was removed from the vehicle and the patrolmen attempted to handcuff the subject. He began kicking, punching and biting the officers. One handcuff was placed on his right wrist, but the officers could not get the other on.”(Willoughby Crime or Incident Report, Primary: 80-5151)
“He had been cuffed only on his right wrist and began using the loose end like a whip, hitting [Patrolman2] and the other two officers. Subject appeared to be a mental (mentally impaired) or-and (on) drugs, yelling “you are all devils and will burn in Hell”. (Willoughby Crime or Incident Report, Supplemental : 80-5151)
“At this time the subject was maced by the officer and this had no effect at all. The subject was swinging the handcuffs wildly at the officers and kicking and screaming. Realizing this subject was a mental (mentally impaired) we used restraint in combating him. At this time [Patrolman3] arrived and we all attempted to subdue him. At this time [Suspect1] stabbed [Patrolman1] repeatedly in the right hand with the syringe and [Patrolman3] in the arm. [Patrolman2] was hit in the face with handcuffs. We then wrestled him to the ground in the mud and finally got one set of handcuffs on in front of him. We then put a bell chain and leg irons on him and cuffed them together. [Patrolman4] was then called to bring a screened police unit (unit specially trained for dealing with mentally impaired subjects) to the scene- which he did.”(Willoughby Crime or Incident Report, Primary: 80-5151)
All three patrolman were treated in the hospital for cuts and received tetanus shots.
[Patrolman1] received x-rays of “a jammed knuckle sustained while striking the subject”. [Willoughby Crime or Incident Report ,Primary: 80-5151]
At 10:04am on the day of the incident, Willoughby police reached a representative for Suspect1’s family. That representative stated that Suspect1 has had some psychotherapy, but that his main problem is with drugs. The representative stated that [Suspect1’s mother] will call this afternoon. In addition, the representative provided the contact information for Suspect1’s psychiatrist. (Willoughby Police Department, Case Notes #80-005151, 30-H)
Suspect1’s parents were eventually reached who said “he has a history of mental and drug problems. He is also facing charges of resisting arrest and assault of police officers at this time in Grandview Hts, Ohio. This occurred on May 30, 1980.” [Willoughby Crime or Incident Report, Primary: 80-5151]
On June 8, 1980, The UAPD requested a copy of the mug (shot) and (finger) prints of Suspect1 from the Willoughby Police Department and provided them with a copy of a Crime Bulletin with the description of the unknown suspect in the Asenath Dukat murder. (Willoughby Police Department, Case Notes #80-005151, 30-H)
On June 9, 1980, The UAPD advised Willoughby PD to "Search for the above's [Suspect1} shoes per UAPD." (Willoughby Police Department, Case Notes #80-005151, 30-I)
Suspect1 was described as 20 years old, 5’7”, 140 lbs. with brown hair, brown eyes, medium complexion and American descent. (Police Department, City of Willoughby, Ohio, Bureau of Criminal Identification, No. 2594)
Sometime after Suspect1 was arrested, a detective from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office contacted the UAPD with information about Suspect1. According to the Lake County detective, when Suspect1 was booked into the Lake County Jail, he apparently made the following general statement to nobody in particular: “I killed an eight-year-old girl.” A corrections officer at the jail apparently overheard this statement. On July 9, 1980, an Upper Arlington detective traveled to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to obtain a statement from the corrections officer. As of now, we do not know what the UA detective learned on his July 9 trip to Lake County.
The "Mugshot" photo of Suspect1 from the 6/6/80 arrest in Willoughby. Suspect1 died 6/8/84.
The search warrant for Suspect1’s apartment describes the June 8, 1980 interview shown below in the following manner: “After advising [Suspect1] of his Constitutional rights, the [UAPD officers] asked [Suspect1] his whereabouts on Tuesday, June 3, 1980. No mention was made of the purpose of the inquiries. Suspect1 immediately stated that there were three of four ‘pin pointable places’ and that he didn’t hurt anybody.” Today, with the benefit of the DNA evidence, Suspect1’s unusual answers to the fairly general and routine questions seem especially notable. A transcript of the interview with Suspect1 is posted below. DNA evidence has linked Suspect1 to the crime. He committed suicide in June 1984.
As we have pored over the police files, we have learned about clues that were not mentioned in the initial media reports. One of those clues was a red comb found in First Community Village, near the stone wall separating First Community from 2199 Waltham Road. This comb was unusual for two reasons. First, it was a promotional comb from a barbershop in West Jefferson, Ohio. But even more significantly, the phone number printed on the side of the comb was incorrect. As a result, the owner of the barbershop didn’t give many of these combs out, and very few of these combs were in circulation. How did a rare comb from West Jefferson end up near the crime scene at First Community Village?
On June 20, 1980, a UA police sergeant went to the barbershop to check on the red comb. During this visit, the sergeant showed the barbershop employees one or more pictures, and the employees identified an unknown subject. (The name of the subject is redacted from the police files.) After the June 20 visit and a subsequent tip related to West Jefferson (again redacted), the UAPD found the comb significant enough to send to the FBI for analysis. The comb, however, did not provide any relevant physical evidence.
Suspect1’s father was a member of the Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club in West Jefferson. That club was less than three miles from the Brown & Gold Barber Shop – the source of the promotional comb. Furthermore, the husband of a UAPD dispatcher told detectives he had seen one of the suspects in West Jefferson. Significantly, the dispatcher’s husband was also a member of the Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club. Finally, the UAPD sent the red comb to the FBI along with the items obtained from the search warrant of Suspect1. On July 7, 1980, the UAPD delivered only the following items to the FBI: (a) 13 items obtained from Suspect1, (b) the red comb, and (c) a plaster cast of a footprint found at the scene.
We have also obtained information that Suspect1’s father may have received haircuts in West Jefferson from time to time. We cannot say for certain whether Suspect1’s father visited the Brown & Gold Barber Shop. However, it seems likely he did based on (a) the barbershop’s proximity to the Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club and (b) the small number of barbershops in a village the size of West Jefferson. (In another possible connection, the owner of the Brown & Gold Barber Shop was a Korean War Veteran who served in the Air Force. So was Suspect1’s father.)
On June 20, 1980, a UAPD sergeant visited the Brown & Gold Barber Shop to check on the comb found near the crime scene. During that visit, employees of the Brown & Gold Barber Shop identified the picture of a suspect. Ten days later, the UAPD dispatcher’s husband told detectives he saw one of the suspects in West Jefferson. Based on what we have learned, we believe both the barbershop employees and the dispatcher’s husband identified Suspect1.
The Brown and Gold Barbershop in West Jefferson, Ohio was roughly 20 miles from Upper Arlington.
Shortly after the murder, Suspect1 became a prime suspect in the investigation. On June 9, 1980, a confidential informant (“CI”) provided the UAPD with information about Suspect1. As part of that information, the CI said Suspect 1 had become “paranoid” since about the first week of May 1980. The CI also said that, since mid-May of that year, Suspect1 seemed to have an endless supply of cocaine and cash. According to the CI, Suspect1 hid his bike in [redacted name’s] garage after the Asenath Dukat homicide. In conclusion, the CI said he didn’t know if Suspect1 had killed Asenath Dukat, but the CI believed Suspect1 was capable of it under his state of mind at the time.
Independent information confirms much of what the CI told the UAPD. Suspect1 had $429.99 in cash when he was arrested on June 6, 1980, in Willoughby, Ohio. That’s almost $1,400 in cash in 2021 dollars. Suspect1 had this much cash despite being unemployed. Multiple witnesses also said that Suspect1 used (or had used) cocaine, PCP, Quaalude powder, or dope. And in the week after the murder, the UAPD observed what appears to be Suspect1's bike in [redacted name’s] garage. One witness said the bike was left in the garage on Wednesday, June 4, 1980, the day after the murder.
Various witnesses described Suspect1 as being “violent,” “spaced out,” “disoriented,” “weird,” “out of it,” “paranoid,” and “confused” around the time of the murder. Witnesses also said that Suspect1 had been “talking crazy,” couldn’t carry on a conversation, and that he cried for no apparent reason on more than one occasion. In addition, Suspect1 was arrested in Grandview on May 30, 1980, after a violent encounter with Grandview police.
These witnesses used terms such as “violent,” “spaced out,” and “paranoid” to describe Suspect1. Nevertheless, Despite all this, Suspect1 was surrounded by friends and acquaintances for much of the time between May 31, 1980, to June 5, 1980. Asenath was killed June 3rd.
The following timeline is based on witness accounts.
On Saturday, May 31, Suspect1 and various friends (including [Redacted1] and perhaps the confidential informant) attended a party in Delaware County.
Suspect1 spent time at [Redacted1’s] house every day from June 1 to June 5, 1980.
On June 1, Suspect1 was brought to [Redacted1’s] house at an unspecified time and “stayed around” [Redacted1’s] house “all day.”
On June 2, Suspect1 arrived at [Redacted1’s] house at 9:00 a.m. Multiple people, including Suspect1, were apparently at [Redacted1’s] house the evening of June 2. Although it’s not entirely clear, it appears as though Suspect1 was at [Redacted1’s] house until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. the following morning (June 3).
Suspect1 was at [Redacted2’s] residence sometime between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on June 3. This was shortly after Asenath Dukat was last seen near the corner of Arlington Avenue and Waltham Road. DNA evidence had linked Suspect1 to the rape and murder of Asenath Dukat.
Suspect1 and [Redacted2] went to [Redacted1’s] house around 7:00 p.m. on June 3. Later that evening, the three of them apparently went to Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon.
A witness who knew Suspect1 told police he saw Suspect1 at Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon the evening of June 3. This witness said Suspect1 “seemed dazed” and “had tears in his eyes.” The witness further said Suspect1 seemed “emotionally hurt” and “scared.” According to this witness, Suspect1 “looked ‘like he’d been through hell.’”
Suspect1 and, apparently, [Redacted1] and [Redacted2] left Zachariah’s Red Eye saloon sometime around 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. on June 4 and went to a trailer off Trabue Road. Reports differed as to whether Suspect1 smoked marijuana at the trailer. Regardless, [Redacted1] apparently took Suspect1 back to his apartment around 3:00 a.m. on June 4.
Suspect1 returned to [Redacted1’s] house at an unspecified time on June 4. He stayed at [Redacted1’s] house until 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. the following morning (June 5).
The evening of June 5, it appears as though [Redacted1] drove Suspect1 to Suspect1’s family home. While at the family home, Suspect1 told his mother, “I’m sorry for all the sh** going on.” Later that night, Suspect1 took a family car and drove to the Cleveland area. He was arrested the following morning after a violent encounter with Willoughby, Ohio police.
Suspect1 was not the quiet type of violent offender who flew under the radar of his unsuspecting friends and acquaintances. On the contrary, Suspect1 was a paranoid, disoriented man. Some of his friends and acquaintances knew he was capable of violence – at least one thought Suspect1 was capable of murder. And yet, those very same friends and acquaintances “partied” with Suspect1 shortly before or after the afternoon of June 3, 1980.
What attracted those friends and acquaintances to Suspect1 despite his obvious mental state?
Why was Suspect1 so popular?
And could the reason behind Suspect1’s popularity have impacted the Dukat investigation?
DNA evidence links Brent L. Strutner to the rape and murder of Asenath Dukat. Frankly, we would have preferred not to reveal Suspect1’s name. When this case is solved, Suspect1 should be forgotten forever. But there is a good chance Suspect1 did not act alone. And until this case is solved, we must talk about him.
Suspect1 was named Brent L. Strutner. He was born on January 7, 1960. On June 8, 1984, Brent Strutner committed suicide by jumping out the window of his room on the sixth floor of the Downtown Columbus YMCA. Brent Strutner’s family moved to their house in Upper Arlington in 1965. He was in the Upper Arlington High School Class of 1979. Before attending UAHS, Brent Strutner attended Jones Middle School and, presumably, Tremont Elementary School. (We cannot verify his attendance at Tremont, but it was by far the closest elementary school to his house.) At the time of Asenath Dukat’s murder, Brent Strutner was deeply involved in drugs such as PCP and cocaine. He was almost certainly a drug dealer based on the information received during the Dukat investigation. As a result, despite his serious personal issues, Brent Strutner had many “friends.”
In June 1980, Brent Strutner lived in an apartment at 1855 Independence Avenue, which is about a half mile southeast of the intersection of North Star, Kinnear, and Waltham. He was known to frequent the area in and around First Community Village, especially the train tracks and railroad overpass at the southwest corner of the property. Brent Strutner was also known to frequent Frankenstein’s Cave and the area closer to the Scioto River.
DNA evidence definitively links Brent Strutner to the sexual assault. However, the DNA evidence does not necessarily establish that Brent Strutner killed Asenath Dukat. Other evidence points to an additional suspect (or suspects) being involved. For example, the footprints found in the creek bed do not match Brent Strutner. These footprints were very close to Asenath Dukat’s body. One of the footprints was less than three feet from her head. If Brent Strutner wasn’t standing there, who was?
The notion that more than one person might have been involved is not unique to us. It isn’t new, either. On June 28, 2005, former UA Police Chief Dwight Holcomb wrote a letter to the UA News. The letter states: “If anyone with even the smallest amount of knowledge about this crime would come forward and speak to my detectives, we may finally obtain a substantial lead that could solve this case. An event that I truly hope will someday bring Asenath’s killer (or killers) to justice.” As Chief Holcomb wrote in 2005, killer… or killers.
We must talk about Brent Strutner because we know he was there. Beyond that, the Dukat case had to be a significant topic of conversation in the UAHS Classes of 1978, 1979, and 1980. We know this, in part, because of Brent Strutner.
Shortly after Asenath Dukat was abducted on June 3, 1980, Brent Strutner rode his bicycle to a residence near Kingsdale Shopping Center. A female member of the Class of 1980 lived at that residence. She was friends with Brent Strutner. A short time later, Brent Strutner and his friend went to a house in between Mt. Holyoke and North Star, near Fishinger Road. Brent Strutner was apparently good friends with two brothers who lived at that house. One of the brothers was in the Class of 1979. The second brother was in the Class of 1978. From there, Brent Strutner, the female member of the Class of 1980, one (or both) of the brothers, and another female member of the Class of 1980 went to Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon at 1778 N. High Street. (We are fairly confident the brother from the Class of 1978 went to Zachariah’s that night.) After spending time at Zachariah’s, Brent Strutner and his friends went to visit trailer #14 at the Dallas Mobile Home Village near the corner of Dublin Road and Trabue. The resident of this trailer was a suspected drug dealer. While at the trailer, some (or all) of the individuals used illegal drugs. The UAPD eventually interviewed the two brothers, the two female members of the Class of 1980, and the suspected drug dealer from the Dallas Mobile Home Village. (Today, we know these individuals were with Brent Strutner a few short hours after he participated in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. At the time, the UAPD did not have that knowledge.)
As the investigation and news coverage intensified, what were the conversations like among members of the UAHS Classes of 1978-80? (Suspect2, Ian, and Nate were also in the Class of 1978.) A significant number of their classmates were interviewed in relation to the Dukat case. And during these interviews, what information (if any) may have been withheld from the UAPD based on (i) the fear of implicating oneself in drug-related activity, (ii) the fear of retribution from one of the suspected participants in the crime, or (iii) the desire to protect Brent Stutner? As former Chief Holcomb wrote in that June 28, 2005 letter: “I totally agree with [the] statement ‘someone out there knows what happened that day…and has not yet come forward.’” Could that someone be a person who knew Brent Strutner? That is why we must talk about Brent Strutner, as unsettling as it may be.
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