BEDFORD — The last defendant in an Augusta County murder case was sentenced Friday in Bedford County Circuit Court.
It was Andrew Ottinger who was responsible, in part, for the case landing in Bedford County.
In March 2010, a fisherman on the James River discovered the body of 42-year-old Sean Placko stuffed in a duffel bag on the Bedford side of the river near the U.S. 501 bridge, south of Snowden. According to testimony in the case, Placko was murdered by 29-year-old Christopher Dudley at Placko’s home sometime in February that year.
Ottinger, 23, testified in earlier hearings that he was using drugs at Placko’s home at the time of the killing and helped Dudley pack up Placko’s body, then went with him and Dudley’s wife, Susan, to help dump the body in the river.
Ottinger was initially charged with first-degree murder because prosecutors believed he conspired with Dudley in the slaying. They dropped that charge in June when Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz said he couldn’t prove Ottinger was anything but an accessory after the slaying.
He pleaded no contest to concealment of a corpse at the same June hearing. His conviction was upheld by his own insistence that he was at the bridge. Christopher Dudley and Susan Dudley have been adamant to prosecutors and investigators that Ottinger had no part in dumping the body.
Ottinger has been jailed since mid-March 2010. He was sentenced to one year and four months’ incarceration Friday, effectively a sentence of time served, Krantz said.
The prosecutor and Ottinger’s lawyer both noted his cooperation with investigators and his testimony against his co-defendants.
“Mr. Ottinger has great potential,” Krantz said. “He has skills. If there is one thing that has held Mr. Ottinger back, it is his substance abuse.”
Judge James Updike ordered substance abuse treatment as a condition of Ottinger’s release.
It remains unclear why Placko was killed. A man who shared a jail cell with Christopher Dudley testified Dudley told him he killed Placko over a drug debt. There was also evidence the Dudleys had been stealing money from Placko, and were caught on an ATM camera using his bank card after his death. Prosecutors have said Placko inherited several thousand dollars shortly before his slaying.
Christopher Dudley was sentenced in May to 37 years in prison. His wife, convicted of concealment of a corpse, was sentenced on Tuesday to 90 days in jail.
Her involvement was mitigated Tuesday by evidence her husband had threatened to kill her if she did not cooperate.