HARRISON, Ohio — Harrison police were pretty sure Ronald Wallace and Steven Honaker were inside a home when it exploded. It was easy to figure out who was in the house because they were severely burned. All their hair was burned off. Their ears were melted. Their skin was melting off of them.
But it was pictures Koopman took of the pair in the hospital that was the key to solving the mystery of why Wallace’s grandmother’s house blew up. The pictures played a big role in sending Wallace, 29, and Honaker, 23, to prison Tuesday. These young men really thought they can get away with it.
Koopman downloaded the hospital pictures of Wallace and Honaker on to his computer the day after he took them and saw something was amiss.
“They still had their facial hair,” Koopman said.
He looked closer and saw that the facial hair on the men was preserved around what appeared to be a faint outline burned into their skin. Koopman went to the local hardware store, picked up a respirator and discovered that shape was exactly the shape on the faces of the pair.
That and evidence found at the scene proved the explosion that leveled the house Easter weekend of 2009 was caused by Wallace and Honaker cooking methamphetamine in the house. Meth cookers use respirators so they can breathe clean air during the toxic process of making the drug.
“They blew the whole damned house to smithereens,” Koopman said of a home in the 100 block of Campbell Road.
Faced with the overwhelming evidence, the men confessed. They were charged with a crime that could have sent them to prison for up to eight years but accepted a July plea deal that allowed them to plead guilty instead of a lesser crime – attempted illegal manufacture of drugs.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler sent each to prison Tuesday for two years.
The pair was lucky, Koopman said, the damage wasn’t too serious. Wallace’s grandmother usually watched several of her grandchildren. But because it was Easter weekend, she treated the kids by taking them to spend the night at a Sharonville hotel so they could swim, so they weren’t in the house when it exploded.
The grandmother got a new house out of it.
Insurance paid the grandmother $105,000 and they rebuilt the house.