Victim: Officer John Utlak, 26
Age at time of murder: 17
Crime date: December 8, 1982
Crime location: Mineral Ridge
Partner in crime: Randy Fellows, 18
Crimes: Robbery and murder of a police officer
Murder method: Three gunshots including a close-range shot to the head
Weapon: .22 caliber handgun
Convictions: Aggravated murder
Sentence: 30 years to life
Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility and eligible for parole in 2021
Joseph and Fellows, both drug informants, ambushed and murdered Officer Utlak during an undercover narcotics investigation. During a meeting with Officer Utlak, the drug informants shot him, robbed him, and left him to die. Joseph was denied parole in 2016. His next parole hearing was set for 2022. However, because of SB 256, his parole hearing was moved to 2021.
Officer John Utlak had been assigned to an undercover investigation regarding drugs and firearms. On December 8, 1982, he went to meet two drug informants in Mineral Ridge, Ohio in the parking lot of the Gibralter Steel Corp. Unbeknownst to Officer Utlak, those informants, Randy Fellows and Fred Joseph, planned to rob him.
Fellows and Joseph arrived at the meeting. Fellows, 18, remained in the vehicle and Joseph approached Officer Utlak. Joseph, who had turned 17 a month and a half earlier, pulled out a .22 caliber handgun and shot Officer Utlak three times. One of the shots was a close-range shot to the head. Joseph and Fellows then robbed Officer Utlak of $400, a watch, firearms, and a radio. The cop-killers left Officer Utlak to die in the snowy parking lot and fled the state. Officer Utlak’s body was found by workers the next morning.
The killers were apprehended and subsequently convicted of aggravated murder in two separate jury trials. Both murderers were sentenced to life with parole after 30 years. Joseph was denied parole in 2016 and another parole hearing was set for 2022. However, SB 256, which went into effect in April 2021, mandates that juvenile offenders be eligible for parole every five years. Because of SB 256, Joseph’s next parole hearing has been set for 2021.