Ohio Man Pleads Not Guilty to Capital Murder in Officer's Shooting Death

by Alex Johnson /

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An Ohio man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to capital murder charges in the shooting death of Danville police Officer Thomas Cottrell, who was found behind City Hall last month with his gun and his cruiser missing.

Herschel Ray Jones III, 32, was ordered held without bond on a 10-count grand jury indictment that includes charges of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. He is being held in neighboring Morrow County for his own protection.

The body of Cottrell, 34, an auxiliary officer on the seven-person Danville force, was found behind the Danville Municipal Building shortly before midnight Jan. 17, the Knox County Sheriff's Office said. He had been shot in the head, and both his service weapon and his police cruiser were missing.

Related: Danville Officer Thomas Cottrell Shot Dead, Weapon and Cruiser Stolen

Image: Officer Thomas Cottrell
Danville, Ohio, police Officer Thomas Cottrell.Danville Police Department

Sheriff's deputies that night had already been seeking Jones, who has an extensive record of felony convictions going back at least 15 years, according to Ohio corrections records.

Half an hour before Cottrell's body was found, Jones' ex-girlfriend called 911 to report that Jones was "looking to kill an officer" in Danville, the sheriff's office said.

"He's got guns on him," the woman said in audio of the 911 call, which authorities released last month. "He's already beaten me and threatened to kill me. I don't know if he's coming home."

Asked whether she wanted officers to meet her at home, the woman replies: "No. That's a bad thing. He'll kill me."

Related: Listen to 911 Call Via NBC Station WKYC-TV

IMAGE: Herschel Ray Jones III
Herschel Ray Jones III was jailed in a neighboring Ohio county for his own protection.Morrow County Correctional Facility

Cottrell was known as Tommy and was the father of three daughters and two stepsons, according to his obituary. He graduated from the Basic Police Academy at Central Ohio Technical College and began a career in law enforcement in 2002, the college said.

"We all accept that being killed in the line of duty is a reality and is a part of protecting our communities and the public," said Kevin Reardon, director of the college's Institute for Public Services and Safety.

"The kick in the gut is always more difficult when it hits close to home as it has with Officer Cottrell," Reardon said.

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