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Written by Sheila McLaughlin firstname.lastname@example.org•
May 7, 2010
HAMILTON – Joshua Berkheimer accused Jamie Belty of flirting with a mutual friend the morning he took a hammer to her head and nearly killed her.
And, he called the man to tell him what he was doing as he attacked her, according to police documents obtained by The Enquirer on Friday.
An investigative report into the fatal police shooting of Berkheimer and an interview with the head of detectives shed some light on the pre-dawn April 25 attack on the 23-year-old Mount Washington woman.
Belty, who was separated from her husband and dating Berkheimer, remains at Miami Valley Hospital in serious condition.
The two had been out with a group of people, including the male friend, earlier in the evening. Berkheimer and Belty had arrived at Berkheimer’s apartment only 15 minutes before the attack began, police said.
The report details the events when Officers Casey Johnson and Aaron Hucke responded in separate cruisers to a 911 call from another tenant who thought the loud screaming and pounding could be an escalating case of domestic violence.
The officers went to apartment 5 and listened outside the door. It was 3:55 a.m., just two minutes after they were dispatched.
Johnson said he heard a male voice inside.
“He said something about bashing her (expletive) skull in. Then there was a pause so I assumed he was talking on the phone. He mentioned something about a hammer and I think he said a ring. Then he said, ‘What do you want me to do, send you a (expletive) video? Can you just come over to my apartment?'” Johnson said in his statement to Lt. Scott Scrimizzi.
Hucke’s version was nearly the same, except he said he heard Berkheimer talking about assaulting Belty with a hammer and a wrench.
Johnson found the door unlocked and opened it. He barely got inside when he saw Belty lying on the floor covered in blood and Berkheimer kneeling down next to her head with a claw hammer in his right hand. A hacksaw and pipe wrench lay on the living room floor next to them.
Scrimizzi’s report said that Johnson ordered Berkheimer to drop the hammer but Berkheimer kept pounding Belty’s head, getting in three or four more blows before Johnson fired one shot from his Glock 35 pistol, hitting Berkheimer in the side of the chest. Berkheimer fell backward and died.
Scrimizzi’s May 3 report concludes that Johnson’s use of force was justified and that he was defending Belty’s life. The report and supporting documents such as witness statements have been sent to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office for an independent review. That could be completed next week.
“It is my opinion that if Officer Johnson had not taken the action that he did, Jamie Belty would have been murdered at the hands of Joshua Berkheimer,” Scrimizzi wrote.
He said Friday that the wrench on the floor next to Belty did not have blood on it, which indicates she was not struck with the tool. Police have no idea what Berkheimer intended to do with the saw. Friends told police that Berkheimer had the wrench at his apartment because he was working on his car.
Police are still waiting for toxicology screens on Berkheimer to see if he was using alcohol or drugs. Scrimizzi said Friday that Berkheimer, who worked at Transitional Living Inc. mental health services in Hamilton, was on a prescription anti-depressant and likely was drinking alcohol the morning of the attack.
Berkheimer was buried a week ago at Rose Hill Burial Park in Hamilton.
Belty, whose father is the mayor in the small northeast Ohio town of Brewster, near Canton, continues to recover at the hospital in Dayton, where her parents have been by her bedside since the attack. They have declined interviews.
A Facebook page set up by friends – Jamie Belty get better very soon – says that Belty, a videographer at Norwood Community Television, was talking and writing last week before having a nine-hour surgery Tuesday to reconstruct her battered face. Police said both of Belty’s jaws, both cheekbones and her nose were broken in addition to severe skull injuries.
Belty’s friends have rallied around her, staging several fundraisers in her hometown and setting up a web site for contributions to help defray Belty’s medical costs. The web site address is available through the public Facebook page.
Scrimizzi said Johnson and Hucke have been to the hospital to visit Belty. Police haven’t taken her statement about the attack yet, but Scrimizzi wonders if she remembers what happened.
Johnson returned to work May 3. But Scrimizzi said he can tell the shooting has taken its toll on the officer.
“Casey’s a 28 year-old kid who always had a smile on his face. But he’s not the same. Hopefully her progress will really help him,” Scrimizzi said.
Postmortem toxicology reports reveal that in addition to a blood alcohol level of .190%, Berkheimer had three times the highest typical therapeutic level of sertraline (Zoloft) (in his system). Four days prior to the attack, Berkheimer texted that he was “unstable”, wanted help, and could not get the thoughts out of [his] mind.