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May 25, 2012

Police: Locals admit to killing Ohio woman

MEADVILLE — Two Cochranton women were arrested and jailed on homicide charges early Thursday after allegedly admitting they killed an Ohio woman and buried her body in a shallow grave near their residence recently.

According to Pennsylvania State Police at Meadville and Crawford County Coroner Scott Schell, the body of 20-year-old Brandy M. Stevens of Beaver Township, Ohio (across the state line in Mahoning County) was exhumed late Wednesday from an approximately two-foot-deep grave near the residence of Ashley Barber, 20, and Jade Olmstead, 18, at 29558 Drake Hill Road. After being taken into police custody, “Barber and Olmstead both admitted to their role in killing (Stevens) and the burying of her body,” police stated in a public report issued Thursday.

According to the report, Stevens’ family in Ohio had reported her as missing on Saturday, and local investigators, using information from and working in cooperation with Ohio police, had gone to Barber’s and Olmstead’s residence to speak with the two because they “were friends of the victim.”

Following their arrests, Barber and Olmstead were both arraigned before Linesville-area Magisterial District Judge Rita Marwood, acting for Vernon Township-area Judge Michael Rossi, on felony and misdemeanor charges of one count each of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide and tampering with physical evidence.

Both were jailed without bond and are scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings before Rossi on June 1.

Few further details were available as of the Tribune’s press deadline late Thursday due to ongoing nature of the investigation, authorities said. No affidavits of probable cause or other documents providing further details regarding the circumstances of the case were available Thursday.

A ruling on the official cause of Stevens’ death is pending, Schell told the Tribune following an initial autopsy on the body Thursday.

“Miss Stevens had multiple injuries from multiple different objects,” said Schell. “She had multiple blunt-force (injuries) to a large percentage of her body.”

Schell didn’t go into further detail regarding the injuries, but said he continues working with an Erie County forensic pathologist to determine the exact cause of Stevens’ death. An official ruling is expected to be issued by sometime early next week, he said.

Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at rsmith@meadvilletribune. Tribune reporter Mary Spicer and Pat Bywater, executive editor, contributed to this report.

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