GEORGETOWN, Ohio – Authorities will update the public Tuesday on the latest in the 2013 unsolved slaying of a 22-year-old pregnant Brown County mother.
John Burke, head of Brown County's Drug and Major Crimes Task Force, said there are "no major breakthroughs" in the Brittany Stykes case, but there is a renewed effort to solve it.
"We are going to devote fresh resources to the case," Burke said.
The county’s task force, sheriff’s office, prosecutor’s office and Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Southern Hills Career Center Board Office in Georgetown.
Stykes was 17-weeks pregnant when she was found with multiple gunshot wounds and slouched in her vehicle on Aug. 28, 2013. She was just three miles away from her parents’ home in Ripley. Bullets struck her neck, chest and right arm.
Stykes' father, Dave Dodson, said authorities are "reopening" the case.
While the case was never officially closed, Dodson said detectives stopped investigating his daughter's death. He said he does not believe they have made any progress in the last year.
"(The sheriff's office) stopped taking my calls," he said.
Since Stykes' death, Brown County has elected a new sheriff, prosecutor and coroner. Gordon Ellis took over the role of sheriff this month, replacing Dwayne Wenninger.
Wenninger held the office since 2001.
"With the new sheriff taking over, I have hope we'll get answers," Dodson said. "The previous sheriff would never sit down with me. (Having a new sheriff) is a confidence builder for me. He wants this case solved. I think he’ll be able to do it."
Stykes’ young daughter, Aubree, was found strapped in her car seat, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. Just 14 months old at the time, Aubree managed to survive the shooting after several major surgeries.
The coroner did not find gunshot residue at the site of Stykes’ death, indicating the mother was not shot at close range. She also had several abrasions to her face, right arm and fingers, as well as abrasions to her right leg. Toxicology results reported no drugs or alcohol in her system.
When Stykes’ body was brought to the coroner’s office, authorities said she had all of her jewelry and about $125 in cash on her.
Shane Stykes, Brittany Stykes’ widower, said he has been advised not to speak to reporters on the case.
He would only tell WCPO his daughter, Aubree, is doing very well and will start kindergarten soon.
“She is always happy and you would never know something happened to her,” Shane Stykes said. “She loves and misses her mom.”
The last big break
The case has puzzled Brown County authorities for more than three years. The last major lead in the case happened more than a year ago in September 2015 when authorities executed a search warrant at a home.
According to an affidavit, a female informant came forward in June 2015 with a possible suspect and motive. She said she had knowledge of the case that went “well beyond that of the general public,” investigators said.
In her statements to detectives, the informant said she was in the passenger seat of a car with a man – her ex-boyfriend – in 2013 when he spotted a yellow Jeep Wrangler (driven by Stykes) at a gas station and started following it.
After about 25 minutes, she said he plugged a portable blue police light into the car’s cigarette lighter and waved Stykes down off U.S. Route 68 near Gooselick Road.
He knew exactly who she was, the witness said.
“The (informant) stated that the victim was ‘Brit’ and (shooting her) was payback for her ‘old man’ not paying (him) money that he owed,” the affidavit states.
The informant told police someone paid Stykes’ killer two payments of $10,000 to perform the hit, and that killer was a man with a lot of experience and secrets.
She said, according to the affidavit, her ex-boyfriend had been involved in “multiple murders that she knew about” and she had “seen him kill people.”
This information led investigators to a home in the 2700 block of Hogg Ridge Road in Falmouth on Sept. 22, 2015.
Brown County Sheriff’s deputies, with assistance from Kentucky State Police, executed a search warrant at about 8:30 a.m. at the property – about an hour-and-a-half drive from where Stykes was killed.
Investigators carried metal detectors and shovels during the raid and, according to the affidavit, removed 19 pieces of evidence -- assorted notebooks and letters, 10 cellphones, CDs, a computer, a camera, a shotgun and four rounds of ammo.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Office called the raid a success at the time.
"I feel that it was a successful search warrant and I feel it will be beneficial to our case," Brown County Chief Deputy Carl Smith said the day after the search.
Detectives said they were confident in the informant’s information. At one point, according to the affidavit, she led investigators to the spot where she said Stykes was shot – a couple hundred feet south of Gooselick Road and U.S. 68.
The suspect was in jail on unrelated charges and has yet to be charged to this day. Detectives interviewed him in August 2015, and wrote in the affidavit he “appeared very nervous during questioning.” He denied knowing where Georgetown or Brown County were located, and said he knew nothing about Stykes or her homicide, investigators said.
WCPO's Tom McKee contributed to this report.