No indictment in Mason woman's shotgun death

Posted at 7:07 PM, Sep 14, 2015

MASON, Ohio -- A Warren County grand jury did not return an indictment against the husband of a woman who died in a shooting at their Mason home.

Prosecutor David Fornshell said the grand jury did not recommend charges against Timothy Sparks in the death of his wife, Susan Sparks.

“I don't know what happened that day. God & Mr. Sparks only know what happened,” Fornshell said.

Fornshell said prosecutors did not present aggravated murder or voluntary manslaughter charges during the hearing as there was no evidence to support either charge.

BACKGROUND: Police question husband in fatal Mason shooting

He said the only charge left to present was murder. That meant the jury would have to decide whether Sparks purposefully killed his wife or it was an accident.

The prosecutor said reckless or negligent homicide charges didn’t fit the situation either and that investigators believe Sparks didn’t purposefully shoot his wife.

“If you believe his story, it was not reckless conduct. If you do not believe his story -- he was not negligent,” Fornshell said.

Sparks did eventually obtain legal counsel late in the process but Fornshell said he was “extraordinarily cooperative” as a witness in the case. Tim Sparks’ testimony was also consistent, according to investigators.

“Anytime you have a shotgun death and the only witness is the one with hands on gun, you have to look for motive,” Fornshell said.

The prosecutor said Tim Sparks was interviewed twice and was cooperative each time. He also appeared without counsel. Officials said they did not find evidence of a reason for Tim Sparks to purposefully shoot his wife.

Last month, the county coroner stated that he could not determine who pulled the trigger in Susan Sparks’ death.

Investigators looked into any possible motive in the case, including financial issues. That evidence was given to the grand jury.

Fornshell said financial strains were evident but there was no “significant” evidence of that for a motive.

The couple’s children, sibling and friends indicated to investigators that Susan Sparks suffered from severe depression, officials said.

“[The] common theme after interviews [was] Susan Sparks suffered from severe depression. Many used the term bi-polar to describe her,” Fornshell said.

There was also evidence that Susan Sparks overdose several years ago but there was no determination if it was accidental or intentional.

When looking at the physical evidence, Fornshell said they found that the shotgun belonged to the couple’s middle who -- who is a Marine.

However, none of the couple’s children were living at home at the time of the shooting.

Investigators also determined that the gun was not loaded and the ammunition was kept separately from the firearm.

Fornshell said Tim Sparks’ DNA and fingerprints were not found on the shotgun or ammunition. Susan Sparks’ DNA was found on the gun but none of her fingerprints were on the shotgun shells.

“You don't always get DNA or fingerprints off a firearm. Tim Sparks has admitted to holding the gun -- wrestling it from wife,” Fornshell said.

He also said that Tim Sparks has never denied handling the shotgun or the ammo.

Officials said Susan Sparks’ family all believe the shooting was an accident.

In August, the Warren County coroner was undecided on whether the fatal gunshot that killed 56-year-old Sparks in her Mason home was a homicide, suicide or accidental.

Fornshell reported the county’s coroner, Dr. Russell Uptegrove, could not determine the manner in which the shotgun went off.

Earlier, Mason Police Sgt. Craig Kline called Susan’s death “questionable." 

Officers interviewed Sparks' husband, Tim, in the hours following the incident, but released him soon thereafter. Tim placed the initial 911 call reporting Susan had been shot.

Tim told a 911 dispatcher he walked in on Susan holding his shotgun, according to an emergency call obtained by WCPO.

“I was getting ready for work and I just came in (the bedroom) and she was standing there with a gun,” Timothy told the dispatcher in the emotionally charged call. “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ I tried to take the gun. She pulled it toward her."

In their summary of the incident, officers said they found Tim on the left side of the couple's bed with his hands near his wife. Susan, a former Ford employee, was covered in blood on the bed. The room smelled of gunpowder, police said.

Tim told police Susan was "walking around with a shotgun" and said to him "it will be better this way" while pointing the the barrel toward her chest, according to the report.

Police said Tim told officers he tried to remove the gun from Susan's hands, but she struggled and leaned back on the bed.

"Mr. Sparks stated his wife was stronger than he was due to a recent shoulder surgery," the police report states. "He states she pulled him toward her and onto her."

Officers said Tim "paused" when police asked him whether he was holding the gun when it went off.

"He stated he was," officers reported. "He stated he did not know the gun was loaded. I did not speak to Mr. Sparks after he advised me of what happened."

Fornshell said the direct cause of death was ruled shotgun blast to the chest.

The prosecutor said more evidence could be collected to reconsider charges but that would be unlikely. Fornshell said he’s satisfied with the investigation and considers the case closed.