A Wisconsin man was charged with murder Wednesday in what authorities believe was a random knife attack that killed an Indiana motorist and injured another after they had stopped at a travel plaza on the Ohio Turnpike.
The victims, who were not traveling together, were attacked Tuesday in the plaza’s parking lot, investigators said.
A sheriff’s deputy shot the suspect, 51-year-old Thomas Conner of Beloit, Wisconsin, after trying to stop him by firing non-lethal rubber balls and telling him several times to drop the knife, said Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton.
The deputy shot Conner twice after he came at him, hitting him near the hip and waist, Hilton said. Conner was being treated in a Toledo hospital and will eventually be transferred to the county jail, the sheriff said.
Video from a bystander showed the suspect repeatedly moving toward the deputy while holding the knife outside the busy travel plaza near Fremont.
Investigators said they have found no evidence that Conner knew either of the victims and don’t know what led to the stabbings.
David Diederich, 66 of La Porte, was in the parking lot when he was stabbed and died at the scene, according to the State Highway Patrol.
A second man, Alan Austin, 53, of Delavan, Wisconsin, was eating in his truck when Conner approached the vehicle, reached through an open window and stabbed him, Hinton said.
Austin, who was treated at a hospital and released, told investigators he had no idea who the suspect was or why he attacked him, Hinton said.
A customer at the plaza, Wayne Howell, of Syracuse, Indiana, told the Fremont News-Messenger that the suspect was saying things that didn’t make sense and became agitated when people walked away from him.
A day before the stabbings, Conner was at a travel plaza near Cleveland where he complained about back or stomach pain, said Lt. Richard Reeder of the state patrol. He was treated at a hospital and then continued on his way, Reeder said.
Those who dealt with Conner said he was polite and didn’t notice anything unusual, Reeder said.
The deputy who shot Conner has been placed on administrative leave, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is investigating the use of force.
Both Hinton and Reeder said they think the deputy saved the lives of others by drawing the suspect away from people in the parking lot and stopping the attack.