Ala Paul Harvey, “The Rest of the Robert Lee Curtis Story”

The Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus. Since demolished.

I recently posted a story about the murder of Durward “Bud” Perry by Robert Lee Curtis. A reader subsequently ask, “What became of Curtis?” As reported in the original article Curtis was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus and began serving his sentence on March 12, 1957.

A day or so after publishing the original story, a reader informed me of an obituary appearing in a New Philadelphia, OH newspaper about the death of a Rev. Robert Lee Perry. The details of this man’s life parallel those of Perry’s killer so I made several inquiries trying to find out what details I could.

I talked to a couple of people in Newcomerstown, OH who knew Curtis but they didn’t seem aware of his past. I then called the Ohio Department of Corrections and their records department was able to find Curtis’ Inmate Card. They are only required by law to maintain records for ten-years and all available from the remaining card is that Curtis was admitted to the Ohio State Penitentiary in 1957, his inmate number was 102014, and his final release date was May 9, 1979. The researcher stated that Curtis had probably been paroled sometime earlier but his final obligation to the state was the May 9th date. I have no information about his later life other than that contained in the following obituary:

Rev. Robert Lee Curtis, 76, of 144 West State Street Newcomerstown died Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at Lafayette Pointe Nursing and Rehab Center, West Lafayette, surrounded by his loving family. He was born November 1, 1934 in Greenfield, O. to the late George and Hilda (Shaw) Curtis. He served in the US Navy during the Korean War from Jan. 8, 1952 until Oct. 12, 1955. He was a Stationary Engineer for the State of Ohio, retiring from the Marion Correctional Inst. in 2000. He was a member of the Church of Christ of Christian Union of Newcomerstown. On Saturday August 31, 1974 he married Opal (Reynolds) Curtis who survives. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Christopher (Kelly) Marlatt, Scott (Bobbi) Marlatt, Tracie (Harry) Kenney and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a step-son, David Marlatt; great grandson, Kyle David Marlatt; two half brothers, Tom Curtis and Wayne Penn; and a sister Erma Hamilton. Services will be Friday, August 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM at the Addy Funeral Home with Rev. Jim Reed officiating. Burial will be at Coshocton Co. Memory Gardens. Visitation will beThursday, August 18, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Addy Funeral Home. Military graveside services will be conducted by the Newcomerstown Veterans Honor Guard.

Given that Curtis married his wife, Opal, in 1974 it’s reasonable to assume he was paroled at least five-years before his final release. A former Highland County prosecutor told me it would have been common during the 1950s for an inmate serving life to be paroled after fifteen-years and Curtis would have served fifteen-years by 1974.

Newspaper records state his stepfather and mother, Harry and Hilda Penn, of Greenfield testified at his trial as did his father, George Curtis and his wife.

Of historical interest is that his mother and step-mother weren’t deemed important enough in 1957 to warrant being mentioned by name other than as Mrs. Harry Penn and Mrs. George Curtis. Also, that sentencing guidelines don’t appear to have been as strict sixty-years ago as today. I think in today’s court system life means more than fifteen-years.

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