When a police chief dies in a high speed chase, his family suspects he was actually murdered.

Robert Hamrick

Hamrick arrested a local gang member

CASE DETAILS

In the late 1960s, a group of young men began terrorizing the quiet and peaceful community of Rock Creek, Ohio. According to former Police Chief Andrew Ceder of neighboring town Jefferson Village:

“They were involved in fights. They were involved in threats. They had the entire village under their thumb. When they spoke, the village pretty much listened.”

Hamrick was in a high speed chase

The town counted on the Sheriff’s Department for protection, but they seemed unable to stop the crime wave. So the citizens decided to start their own police department.  In July 1969, Robert Hamrick was the third man in less than six months to take charge of the new police force. The other two had both left after receiving threats from members of the Rock Creek Gang. But his wife, Myrtle Hamrick, was confident her husband could clean up the town:

“He wanted it to be a nice friendly town and he wanted, you know, to get this gang off the streets so that people wouldn’t have to be afraid of them.”

A fellow officer found Hamrick barely alive

Almost immediately Hamrick and his family were harassed. Myrtle Hamrick knew there was not much her husband could do:

“They just did anything that they could to aggravate him when they knew he was home. He would get fed up and take off after them.”

Five months after he was sworn in, Chief Hamrick investigated an abandoned building on the edge of town. Inside, he found an expensive sports car that had been stolen. Police officer Gary Martin assisted in the investigation:

“We came across it, fingerprinted it and we bugged the building because we didn’t know who was there.  We put a radio in our car and just drove around and listened until the guys came back.  Bob was hiding in the office and when they showed up, we jumped out and busted them.”

The suspects were believed to be members of the Rock Creek Gang. They were arrested and released on bail. Soon after, the threatening calls began. One day, Myrtle Hamrick answered the phone:

“There was a man on the other end and he said, ‘Tell your husband to leave things alone and get him out of town or he’s going to be hurt. And he’s going to be hurt bad.’”

One month later, on March 10, 1970, during a routine patrol, Chief Hamrick called in to report that he was in pursuit of a car heading west out of town. An hour and a half passed with no further radio contact. Finally, the dispatcher requested that deputies try to find the missing chief. Four hours later, Hamrick’s patrol car was located on an isolated road. It had hit a tree. Hamrick was semi-conscious and barely alive. Former Ashtabula County Deputy Chief Dennis Chapman was first on the scene:

“He had head and facial injuries. I was surprised to find him moving when I got there.  And then my next thing was to keep him from moving so that he wouldn’t do further injury to himself.”

Was Hamrick murdered in his police car?

Blood covered the back seat of the car, Hamrick’s service revolver and nightstick were missing, and the car’s ignition and lights were switched to the off position. Ashtabula County Sheriff William R Johnston suspected foul play:

“I still don’t believe to this day that all the injuries that Bob received were the result of that car accident.”

Robert Hamrick never regained consciousness and ten days later, he died.  Despite all the evidence that pointed to murder, his death was officially ruled accidental, the result of a vehicular pursuit. Myrtle Hamrick believes otherwise:

“I believe my husband’s death was not a car accident. And that he was beaten to death and that it was covered up.”

Six hours after the crash, the car that Hamrick had been chasing was found at a nearby gas station. It was splattered with mud and had a damaged tire. The owner of the car said that when she dropped the car off for repairs the previous day, it was in good condition.  One of the station employees was known to be a member of the Rock Creek Gang.  Sheriff William Johnston knew the suspect’s history:

“Knowing that he hung around the Rock Creek area, and that I had trouble with him in the past, I felt that he was directly involved.”

One local woman who wished to remain anonymous claimed that she overheard members of the gang bragging that they had murdered Chief Hamrick:

“They were saying, ‘We killed us a cop and we got away with it.’  And they proceeded to tell how they killed him and how they beat him in the head. They had it all planned.  They set him up getting him down here on this dirt road and they took his billy club and they started hitting him with it. They put him back into his car and then they left him there, left him to die. I knew in my heart they would never get caught.”

Chief Hamrick’s daughter, Brenda Hamrick Lewis, still believes the people who killed her father can be caught:

“There is evidence and people just have ignored that evidence. And they‘ve ignored the circumstances at the time and what was going on in the village at the time.  I just hope that we find out what actually happened and if we find out who’s responsible, that they pay for what they did. They took my father from me and I think it’s time that they got something taken from them.”


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season four with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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21 Comments

  1. Gabi

    It’s me again his granddaughter I’m glad people have faith still. I know it was a murder but we still have hope we still think about him but there really probably is like a 20-40% chance they will find themy. We never talk about him. The first time I saw him was when I was 4 I never had met him but in my dreams I did again I was 4 I didn’t know who this man was in my dream until I woke up and walked in my dad’s room and said DAD DAD I MET GRANDPA! yeah it’s one of these story’s but true. So he showed me pictures of him and his brother who look a lot alike and asked me who is my Gpa I got everyone right. My dad was 3 when he died and my aunt 1. So yeah

    Reply

    • SPKE, KD, VD.

      Talked to one of the brothers involved a month after the murder, in short he said how they got the Chief to chase them down a dirt road (sorry it’s been 48 year’s so some of the details are hard to come by) with another car behind the cruiser, the car behind the cruiser actually caused the accident, he went on to say they all ran up to the car to find the Chief dazed or knocked out, then they pulled him from the car and started beating the hell out of him. After they put him back in the car (and I quote) we stabbed him once with what he thought was a piece of antenna. I called the FBI and told them what was told to me, but I never heard back. I was only 15 at the time, maybe that’s why I never heard back.

      Reply

  2. Anonymous

    Please, start a change.org petition before these old p.o.s. murderers die!!! They can arrest people for non-violent crimes but these slime balls get away with killing one of our heroes. Someone needs to post the names of every suspect involved!!!!!!!

    Reply

  3. Johnny

    I think this Chief Hamrick case can be solved. Some of the gang would be late 60’s or in their 70’s depending on their ages. It only takes 1 of these old gang members to talk. There is the missing gun and billy club and probably fingerprint evidence left on the car and scene. A perfect Cold Case Squad review for experienced investigators and arm chair detectives.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    It’s really sad because my father heard members of this gang at the Grand River Manor bragging about comitting this horrible crime. The suspects supposedly threw the evidence in the river by the manor.

    Reply

  5. Anonymous

    So one of the gang members mom was the mayor at the time this all happened. I been really looking into all this I have some people I have learned alot of stuff from they happened to be around during all this!

    Reply

    • john

      Give me the info and I will call the FBI.

      Reply

      • richard

        If that’s the case, and proven that there was intensions to conceal solid evidence w/ “conflict of interest” with the mayor at that time; then she “the mayor” could be charged with being an accomplice for evading an officer!

        Reply

  6. seriously????

    From the beginning this case has details that scream to be investigated! How can You take a bloody back seat and a badly beaten body and call it an accident or the result of the collision with the tree. That is a really far stretch even for me to believe. with the Woman coming forward with what She over heard and common sense, isn’t that enough to open the case. Can the Family not ask for the body to be exhumed and tested to be conducted on Him to prove the car accident did not cause the damage inflicted on him? I have issues with the fact the coroner signed accidental death. Seriously??? Pistol whipped by a steering wheel? Yep!! An accident!! The community simply hired a Lamb for Slaughter and then did not stand behind Him. Shame on those People who have information who are not forth coming with information about this obvious MURDER. Just saying, I think the Police Department, Coroner, and Community at the time all let this Man down.

    Reply

  7. Jenny

    This was no accident. His skull was crushed from front to back on the left side, but none of the windows were broken. In a car accident, the ignition wouldn’t have been switched off, and the key wouldn’t have been broken off in the lock. It’s laudable that the police did not investigate their chief’s murder. This was planned and executed by the gang.

    Reply

  8. Tom

    Can one of those TV sta. that go into COLD CASES try to get into this ? We have DNA and a lot more stuff to hunt them down…

    Reply

  9. Anonymous

    What road was this on?

    Reply

    • Gabriella lacey hamrick

      I’m the grandchild of Hamrick I hope that they find whoever killed my grandpa I never got to meet him I’m only 10 I never seen this episode all I know is that IT WAS NOT A ACCIDENT

      Reply

      • steve hamrick

        my last name is also hamrick i was told years ago i had family in kansas ,ohio and washington i wonder if any relation dad has been dead for 25 years been trying to look up family for years his name was charles dean from stover,mo

        Reply

  10. david d.

    Would like to know who the suspect was from the gas station and who was in the gang…

    Reply

  11. Jea . Prinkey

    Bobb . Wa . A. Good. Man. I. No. Because. He. Wa . My. Step. Uncl . And. Yes. Th . Gan . Was. Ba . Every. One. Was. Afraid. Of. Them. I. Think. It. Should. Be. Opened. A . . Cold. Case. Fil . Ther . Is. N . Status. O . Murder. Com . On. Dose. That. Even. Sound. Lik . It. Accadentel.

    Reply

  12. thomas p.

    “I think it’s Positively disgusting that the authorities in that state & community would not investigate this matter for what it is, an “unsolved murder”. “when evidence clearly points in that direction, you have to wonder, “were the local authorities that stupid to ignore the obvious, or were they afraid to investigate?”

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      I have learned that there was alot of corruption going on and that it was heard the mayor at the time had alot of money maybe paied people off! They made it clear for no one or other departments should ask any questions

      Reply

      • richard

        I think it’s safe to say that the mayor “one of the gang members mother” posted the bail money for those 2 gang members that were caught with that stollen hot rod car! They were caught red handed with a stollen car and still turned up with NO CHARGES against those 2 members! Definitely an example of blatant political corruption in a small town setting.

        Reply