This may be one of the most insane stories of self-defense I’ve run across in quite some time. A couple in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has been cleared by prosecutors and a grand jury, who determined the pair acted in self-defense when they shot and killed the man’s ex-wife and her new husband, who had apparently driven from North Carolina to Ohio intent on murdering the couple.
The ambush actually took place back in February, but due to coronavirus-related court closures, the grand jury wasn’t able to hear the case until just a few weeks ago. Based on the evidence presented, it likely took jurors just a few minutes to clear the couple of any potential charges.
Evidence previously not released publicly was among materials that led investigators to believe the deceased, Cheryl Sanders, 59, and her husband, Robert “Reed” Sanders, 56, had driven to Ohio from their home in North Carolina with the intention of killing Cheryl Sanders’ ex-husband, Robert “Lindsey” Duncan, and Duncan’s wife, Molly, at the Duncans’ Grinnell Road home.
“They had a checklist,” Greene County Prosecutor Stephen K. Haller said in a phone interview last week.
The Yellow Springs News detailed some of the items on that checklist, and they’re almost cartoonishly evil.
A piece of lined notebook paper bears the handwritten heading, in all uppercase letters, “Be prepared prior to leaving for Y.S.”
Under that, also in all uppercase letters is written:
—Objective: Cause pain for Lindsey
Primary: Kill him
Secondary: Burn house down
Third: Kill him/her
A couple lines down, in a mix of upper and lower case letters, is written:
—A: Have alibi
—B: Cheryl is out of danger / ability to drive back to Asheville
A numbered, nine-point to-do list follows and includes such details as “Have camera operational,” “Call AA prior to departure to verify Lindsey location,” “Purchase airplane fuel,” “Testosterone injection,” “Purchase car/truck prior to leaving for Y.S.,” “Phones are charged from Verizon.”
Police were able to recover the checklist after the Sanders’s made their drive and launched their attack on the Duncans. On the morning of February 12, the Duncans were driving back to their home after breakfast. Lindsey Duncan parked the car at the top of the driveway and got out to check the mailbox. As he was getting back in the vehicle, he saw a man wearing a mask and holding a gun, walking up to his wife’s side of the car.
According to the transcript of his Feb. 12 interview with sheriff’s deputies, Lindsey said he owns a gun, but had left it in the house earlier, and so he asked Molly if her gun was in the car. Both Duncans have Ohio conceal carry permits, which they told investigators they had obtained out of fear that Cheryl Sanders wanted to do them harm. They obtained the permits when they moved about four years ago to the area, where Molly has family nearby.
With Molly’s gun in hand, Lindsey said he exchanged fire with the man later identified as Reed Sanders. Lindsey said his ex-wife then pulled up in a vehicle, got out and also threatened them with a gun before being shot by Duncan.
The Greene County coroner said in February that the apparent cause of death for the Sanderses was multiple gunshot wounds. Investigators reported finding three weapons at the scene and multiple shell casings. The Duncans were not physically hurt in the altercation.
The alleged motive in the attack on the Duncans, according to the local prosecutor, was money and greed. Lindsey Duncan had a lot of the former and Cheryl Sanders and her husband apparently had a killer dose of the latter. Greene County Prosecutor Stephen K. Haller says Duncan made a lot of money off of an herbal extract, enough in fact that he could pay a $9-million fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission back in 2015 over deceptive advertising claims for his green coffee bean extract.
Still, despite motive and evidence pointing toward a case of justifiable homicide, Haller chose to present the case to a grand jury rather than decide himself whether to file charges.
“Two people were killed,” he said. “We take that very seriously. It deserved a review by the grand jury.”
The autopsy found that Reed Sanders was shot five times, with one bullet in his back and another in his buttocks; and Cheryl Sanders was shot four times.
In a statement to thepress two days after the shooting, Lindsey Duncan said he’d acted “on pure instinct.”
Haller said that going to the grand jury gave the Duncans “the opportunity to tell their story [to the jurors], and it gave the grand jury the opportunity to ask them questions.”
While the prosecutor’s office had a pretty solid sense that Lindsey Duncan had acted in self-defense, Haller said he was aware of some sentiments in the public suggesting that the Duncans’ stories didn’t add up, that the shooting was a set-up of some kind.
Letting the grand jury make the decision about culpability helps “put this to rest once and for all,” he added.
“As I see it, this is a traditional, classic self-defense case.”
I don’t know about traditional or classic, but it’s a pretty clear cut case of self-defense. I think the grand jury made the right decision. It’s just a shame that the same can’t be said of Cheryl and Reed Sanders.