Two arrests in Bellaire murder

BELLAIRE – Two arrests have been made in the case of the murder of a 92-year-old Bellaire woman in June.

Lydia Ashworth was found dead June 30 in her home at 124 Fourth Ave., West Bellaire, after a presumed burglary.

The hunt for the killers has continued since the crime.

Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter released new information in a press conference Wednesday. J.J. Watson, Bellaire police officer who led the investigation, and Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Allar, who coordinated, were present with Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk.

“The Bellaire Police Department, with the assistance of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, has been tirelessly investigating that crime,” he said. “Based upon the evidence that has been uncovered during their investigation, charges were filed this morning against two individuals for the senseless murder of Ms. Ashworth.”

Brandon Michael Phelps, 21, 1281 1/5 Birch St., Bellaire, and Devin Wayne Fuller, 19, 3577 Franklin St., Bellaire, have been apprehended in connection with the crime. Phelps is presently in the custody of the sheriff’s office. Fuller was arrested in Ohio County Wednesday morning and is currently in Northern Regional Jail, awaiting extradition.

“Both have been charged with aggravated murder,” Berhalter said, adding that next month all evidence will be presented to the Belmont County Grand Jury. The grand jury will decide whether to indict them on this and additional charges. “This charge of aggravated murder does carry with it the possible penalty of the death penalty.”

The case remains under investigation, which will continue.

Berhalter added that the county has seen few crimes of such a serious degree.

“Even one is too many,” he said.

Kovalyk added thanks to the officers as well as the law enforcement departments they have worked with in gathering intelligence and working across boundaries. He noted the cooperation of departments with individually limited resources in gathering evidence. In addition, he commended officers for the extensive man-hours spent on the case.

“We’re committed to keeping our community safe the best way we can. We want to thank the people of Bellaire for supporting us in this investigation,” he said. “In a major case like this, cooperation is vital to getting to this point to where we are today.”

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