Details of heinous crimes in Ohio, in which men were lured to a rural area with promises of jobs, then murdered, are being made public slowly - but not by law enforcement agencies. They are not permitted to talk about the case, because of a Noble County court's "gag" order.
Noble County authorities revealed the investigation after a South Carolina man said he was lured to Marietta by a job offering on the Craigslist Internet site. He was taken to a secluded area near Interstate 77 about halfway between Cambridge and Marietta, the man said. While walking through the woods, he heard the sound of a gun being cocked behind him, and fled. He escaped with a gunshot wound in the arm.
Sheriff's deputies went to the site, where they found one body in a shallow grave. Another grave had been dug, apparently for the South Carolina man.
Two suspects, one adult and one juvenile, were taken into custody.
Then law enforcement officials stopped talking. They had been ordered by the court to stop revealing information to the press, they explained.
Limited gag orders in criminal investigations involving juveniles are not uncommon. This one may have been intended to safeguard the identity of the 16-year-old alleged to have been involved.
But the Noble County court's mandate was a sweeping one. Journalists have been forced to resort to their own investigation merely to learn case details that, in most criminal probes, are made available by law enforcement agencies.
By Wednesday, it was being reported the two killers may have claimed three victims. From several areas of the country, worried families were checking into whether their loved ones had responded to the advertisement, only to be murdered.
No doubt residents of the Akron area, where the two suspects lived, had their own questions about the case.
But again, they were not being answered by law enforcement agencies.
If a judge wants to keep the juvenile's identity secret, he has some precedent for doing so - although we disagree with the practice when serious crimes such as murder are involved. But clamping down on all details regarding the case is an enormous disservice to the public.
The gag order should be lifted.