Sunday, February 20, 2011

Family believes Ohio couple is with murder suspect

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A relative of a missing elderly couple said Saturday he believes they're with a man suspected of murdering a woman found dead this week in the town where the couple lives.

Richard Russell, 84, and his wife, Gladis, 85, haven't been heard from since Wednesday, the day a woman was found dead in a home the Russells sold to Sam Littleton in 2009.

Littleton was charged in absentia with the murder of 26-year-old Tiffany Brown, who is his girlfriend's daughter. He also was charged with felonious assault, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence in Brown's death.

Richard Russell's great-nephew, Matthew Hall, said relatives are worried about the couple's safety and don't believe they would have ventured off on a long trip without informing someone in their tight-knit family. The Russells don't drive at night, he said.

The Russells' car, a green Mercury Grand Marquis with Ohio license plate PDG13E, was last seen Wednesday night at a rest stop along southbound Interstate 75 north of Cincinnati. That's about 100 miles southwest of the couple's home near Bellefontaine.

Richard Russell often uses a walker or wheelchair and has had medical problems that make him dependent on medication, Hall said. It's not clear what medicines he might have had with him.

Littleton was last seen Wednesday morning, and police found his truck about 2 miles from the Russells' home.

Authorities have said the 37-year-old Littleton has relatives in West Virginia and Tennessee and may be in one of those states.

Hall said the family hadn't heard of Littleton before and isn't sure how the Russells disappeared or why.

"We're still holding out hope," Hall said Saturday. "We're looking for that lead, that break, the game-changer."

He described Gladis as an "incredibly feisty" former bookkeeper and Richard as a carpenter who enjoyed farming and worked with cattle and grain. The couple have no children but have put their energy into their community, namely by volunteering with the Lions Club, Hall said.

Richard Russell is a past district governor for the club, Hall said.

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