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Police ready to arrest suspect in North Ridgeville murder

Police ready to arrest suspect in North Ridgeville murder

By JEFF GALLATIN

NORTH RIDGEVILLE – As soon as he leaves the Lake Erie Correctional Center on Saturday, police will arrest a 37-year-old Cleveland man for the murder of a North Ridgeville man this past spring.

John L. Rowan has been in the Lake Erie facility in Conneaut since turning himself on a probation violation charge shortly after the death of Harold Litten Jr., 60, at his Jaycox Road home. Litton was reported missing by his family April 20.Police found Litten’s body hidden in a storage shed during a search of his property May 26. The Lorain County Coroner ruled he died of blunt force trauma with police saying they have recovered what they believe is the murder weapon, although they are declining at this time to say what it is.

“We’ll be waiting for him,” said Detective Lt. Greg Petek of the North Ridgeville police.

Department officials have issued an aggravated murder warrant for Rowan and plan to arraign him in Elyria Municipal Court.

Police said Rowan and Litten knew each other for at least a year, with Rowan doing assorted work for the older man during that time, which apparently led to the murder.

“He was doing mechanical work on a vehicle of Litten’s,” Petek said. “Robbery was a motive in this as well since he took Litten’s.’

Cleveland Police found the van abandoned in the Tremont neighborhood shortly after the murder. The van was not found near where Rowan lived in the Denison and West 88th area.

Petek said he can’t speak specifically as to why Rowan turned himself in for the probation violation on a felony charge .

“It is pretty suspicious timing when the probation violation charge had been there for awhile and he turns himself a few days after all this took place,” Petek said.

A key part of the investigation was getting DNA and other evidence back from the state crime lab. Petek said the apparent murder weapon and other items had evidence which eventually helped lead to Rowan.

“We had to wait to see what the results were from the lab and then we were checking cell phone records and other information which connected the two men,” Petek said.

He said police can’t say exactly when or how the two men met but noted Litten had advertised at times for help with projects, which probably led Rowan to Litten. Petek said the department has no prior reports of problems between the two.

Petek also said the investigation was harder because Litten lived alone.

“He could come and go as he pleased and didn’t have to tell anyone his whereabouts and he also owned a chimney cleaning business and could have been off on his business,” he said.

Petek said police don’t believe anybody else was involved in the murder.

Litten’s family issued a brief statement after police released their information.

“Our family is grateful for the community’s prayers and support and respectfully ask for privacy at this time,” it read.

 

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