By Hank Nuwer
On February 21, 1998, a 19-year-old gentle soul named Lynn Top from North Star, Ohio, walked for exercise on a less-traveled road off Ohio 49. A student at Wright State University’s Lake Campus in Celina, she had thick, abundant hair and a cheerful smile always on parade.
A 1969 Buick Skylark approached her. To her, the driver was a stranger, but he knew her father.
He was Lynn’s worst nightmare on a day when all she wanted to do was inhale clean air and stretch her legs.
The attacker ripped away her Walkman. He assaulted her in the worst way. The attacker destroyed her with no more thought than you’d have slapping a fly.
Studies of the German leaders under Hitler show us the banality of evil. These Nazis were nobodies without the dictator’s authority.
No more ordinary and worthless nobody stalked Dark County than Timothy K. Rodeheffer.
One of four children from a Lightsville family, he once won an FFA prize for growing the largest squash, but Tim was simply nothing-special-Tim.
His junior or senior year, he turned into a chronic boozer.
When he drank, a demon commanded his soul. He broke into a school, got arrested for theft, and crashed his car into a pole.
He married young. In short order, he had a family to rear. They lived on acreage in northern Darke County and he worked menial jobs.
His marriage never stopped him from seeking sex outside wedlock.
Women wanted no part of this demon. He stank to hell of liquor but was strong enough to overpower them.
Twice, during the 1980s, he raped women in the most pitiless, abhorrent fashion.
He climbed into the bedroom window of a drunken pal and raped the man’s pregnant wife in her bed. The pal lay passed out during the attack in Rodeheffer’s vehicle.
The second time, Rodeheffer broke a door to get at the wife of another acquaintance. He terrorized the three children of the screaming victim, and tore the phone off the wall as one child phoned police.
He ordered the kids into another room so that he could perform acts of sexual cruelty on their mom.
He choked the victim so hard he left bruises.
He was sentenced to around 10 years in prison, but he served only four years due to plea bargaining. The women just wanted to get Rodeheffer out of their lives.
After serving his minimal time with reduced charges in the two awful crimes, the monster returned to live with his family.
In time, he encountered Lynn on lonely Rismiller Road.
The monster tried to conceal the foul deeds. He burned the Skylark and junked his 1962 Ford Fairmont to lose evidence.
Lynn’s family grew frightened when she failed to return home. Her parents and friends offered a $75,000 reward.
Search parties with even grade-school children joined a massive search. Some locals condemned that decision on the part of parents and law enforcement. The writers imagined the trauma if a local child were to find Lynn’s body.
Communities on both sides of the state line lived in terror. Parents kept their daughters in sight.
Was he a local? Was he a stranger? Was Lynn held somewhere against her will?
Instead of waving as they walked the rural roads, walkers increased their vigilance lest they learn about the banality of evil firsthand.
The first clue to the monster’s identity came when a nephew observed his uncle acting “sneaky” on Feb. 22. The nephew informed police that his uncle, a convicted rapist, was excavating a patch of his land on McFeely-Petry Road.
Thirteen days after the abduction, authorities unearthed the unclothed body of Lynn on Rodeheffer’s land. He had wrapped her in plastic.
Family held a burial Mass in Versailles. The Rev. James Schmitmeyer spoke for the family, expressing his outrage.
Authorities tried to charge Rodeheffer. The wily evildoer slipped away before police stormed his home.
Finally, a farmer called police to his barn along Ohio 49. It was about one mile from where Lynn was abducted.
A rotting male body lay between stacked hay bales
A coroner collected a rifle and the body.
Rodeheffer’s wife identified his remains.
Judge Yarbrough pronounced Rodeheffer as the killer.
Once more, walkers and joggers could enjoy the beauty of country roads without fear.
Rodeheffer “received the death penalty for his crimes, albeit self-inflicted,” the judge wrote in a summary.
Can such a monster ever truly rest in peace?
Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line.
Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.