Van Wert County was in a stir during a county-wide hunt for a woman suspected of shooting her parents in November. Pictured is a scene from Menke’s arrest the morning following the shooting incident. The case against Menke for the murder of Barbara Robinson remains in the Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas. (TB File Photo)
As we move from 2013 to 2014, we take time to look back at the top stories of the past year. Van Wert County saw events that were controversial, positive, terrifying, and disappointing during the 12 months. It certainly was not a boring year, and the candidates for the top ten stories of the year were widely varied. Choosing the top stories is never easy since one story will affect people quite differently, and some stories which generate little interest from the public actually have great impact on everyone. So the rankings are subjective, based on both community discussion and overall impact on the people of Van Wert County. We continue today with stories six through four.
Murders do not happen often in Van Wert County. So when a killing does happen, local residents get a little shaken. And when there is a county-wide hunt for the accused shooter, blood pressures tend to go up while nerves become frayed. On the evening of Nov. 14, 2013, residents of Van Wert, Ohio City and the western half of the county were especially on guard as Van Wert County Sheriff’s deputies searched all evening for a 48-year-old woman who was suspected of gunning down her parents.
It began around 6 p.m. Thursday with a call to 911 about two persons being shot in a S. Fulton St. home in Van Wert. The initial calls identified a person accused of emptying a .22 caliber rifle before leaving the residence. Tamara Menke was the name given. When emergency personnel arrived at the crime scene, they found two persons with gunshot wounds. One, Barbara Robinson, had been shot in the chest while the other, identified as Robinson’s husband, had injuries in the legs. Both were readied for transport to a Fort Wayne hospital, but Robinson was pronounced dead of her injuries by the time she reached the hospital. The other victim was hospitalized and was eventually released.
Meanwhile the search for Menke continued through the evening. Houses, barns, and other buildings and property were searched, but Menke was not found. When the search resumed Friday morning, deputies found Menke in a barn on her property on Brittsan Rd. in western Van Wert County. She was arrested without incident and was held in jail on a $1 million cash bond. In December, she was indicted by the Van Wert County Grand Jury on five felony charges: aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, felonious assault, aggravated burglary and burglary.
The aggravated murder charge carries a life sentence with a possibility of parole after 20, 25 or 30 years. Menke’s attorney has asked for a competency evaluation to determine her mental condition at the time of the shootings. The case remains in Van Wert County Court of Common Pleas.