Suspect found competent for trial for murder at Ohio Turnpike

Suspect charged with murder in Ohio turnpike knife attack that killed a man and injured another.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 4:49 PM EDT
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SANDUSKY COUNTY, Ohio (WTVG) – A man accused of killing one person and severely injuring another at an Ohio turnpike plaza in eastern Sandusky County is set to appear in court.

After pleading not guilty by reason of insanity in Nov. 2021, Thomas Conner was found competent to stand trial. A bench trial is scheduled for June 3.

According to the indictment Thomas Conner of Beloit, Wisconsin, is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, and two counts of felonious assault with specifications after stabbing two people in the parking lot of the Erie Islands Travel Plaza on October 19, 2021.

David Diederich, 66, of La Porte, Indiana, died at the scene from his injuries.

The Sandusky County Sheriff’s Office said the other victim, Alan Austin, 53, of Delavan, Wisconsin, was sitting in his work van eating when Conner approached and stabbed him. Austin got out of the car and ran toward an EMT for medical assistance that was thereby happenstance, authorities said.

He was airlifted to the hospital with life-threatening injuries and has since been released. Austin told police he did not know the suspect or what may have motivated the attack. The Sandusky County Sheriff, Chris Hilton, said the two coincidentally live about 25 minutes from one another in Wisconsin.

A Sandusky County Sheriff’s Deputy identified as Deputy Evan Ely arrived at the scene and made contact with the suspect. Conner allegedly refused to drop the knife. That’s when the deputy shot the suspect with a “pain compliance weapon,” Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton said. He described it as a “less than lethal” weapon.

When that didn’t work, the suspect allegedly charged the officer. That’s when Ely shot Conner twice with his firearm. Conner is alive and was treated for his gunshot wounds. Ely was placed on paid administrative leave.

According to court records, Conner is a repeat violent offender.

At the time of the incident, he was facing unrelated charges in Wisconsin. According to court records, he was arrested in August 2021 on a trio of charges including disorderly conduct, domestic abuse, and use of a dangerous weapon, according to records from the Rock County, Wi. Circuit court.

He appeared for a court hearing just one week prior to the turnpike stabbings, according to court records. A judge released him on a signature bond.

Conner previously served nearly a decade in prison for an armed robbery in the mid-90s and also served time on marijuana charges, records show.

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