Stalking case advances
In more than an hour of testimony Wednesday, the alleged victim in a case against the commander of the Marietta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said she is in constant fear for her own safety.
“He is everywhere I go, and I am paranoid,” said Angela Bettinger, the reported victim in a menacing and stalking case against Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. William Elschlager. “I’m constantly waiting for something to happen. I haven’t felt safe.”
The case against Elschlager, 46, of 305 Masonic Park Road, Devola, will be bound over to the Washington County Common Pleas Court after a preliminary hearing was held Wednesday in Marietta Municipal Court.
Elschlager stands accused of felony menacing and abduction charges under allegations that he was stalking Bettinger, the wife of one of his former troopers, after she ended the months-long affair between them.
In her testimony, Bettinger noted that her affair with Elschlager lasted from April to August before she told him she no longer wanted anything to do with him. At the time, Bettinger was married to former patrolman Michael Bettinger.
“I would tell him to leave me alone, that we didn’t have things to talk about,” Bettinger said in court.
Bettinger said Elschlager was calling her dozens of times per day, and mentioned a Nov. 30 incident that involved Elschlager pulling up next to her while she was with her current boyfriend on I-77 and angrily gesturing at her.
Later that day, she alleged that Elschlager went to her Newport residence and began throwing Christmas presents at her porch.
“I didn’t invite him, didn’t give him permission,” Bettinger said. “He threw a box of rings at my feet. I picked the box up and he continued to yell at me about who I was seeing and how they weren’t good for me.”
Bettinger then went on to talk about other incidents in December, once when Elschlager allegedly showed up to her house in mostly black and was standing outside, and another time when Bettinger discovered Elschlager standing in her neighbor’s yard while she was outside playing with her son.
The abduction charge came from another incident in which Elschlager allegedly pulled Bettinger over on Ohio 7 between Reno and Newport and allegedly turned off his radio before insisting she talk to him about their relationship.
Defense attorney George Cosenza attempted to poke holes in Bettinger’s claim she has been afraid of Elschlager for nearly two months. He asked Bettinger if it was true that she willingly went on a Caribbean cruise with Elschlager in late September.
“I knew I couldn’t pay him back for it, and I could have said no, but I didn’t,” Bettinger said.
Cosenza asked Bettinger if she and Elschlager had sex during the trip.
“We spent the night in a hotel in Florida before we left,” Bettinger said. “We had sex that night.”
Bettinger then went on to say that Elschlager gave her money for a car payment and another $400 to buy Christmas presents for her child throughout November. He also gave Bettinger a GPS for her car and concert tickets in November.
“She said the relationship ended in August,” Cosenza said. “This goes to her credibility.”
On another occasion, Bettinger contacted Elschlager and asked him to help her transport and then store a trampoline for her son for Christmas, and said she would thank and hug Elschlager on multiple occasions when he did favors for her.
“She’s saying she’s scared to death of this guy, but she’s constantly calling him, taking money from him, hugging him and asking him for help,” Cosenza said.
Washington County interim Prosecutor Kevin Rings said regardless, that Elschlager was using sophisticated forms of tracking to make sure he knew where Bettinger was, and had pulled her over without reason and had kept her there for several minutes.
Bettinger alleged that she traveled to the highway patrol post on Jan. 11 to give Elschlager one last chance to come clean and return personal items that had gone missing from her car, or else she would contact law enforcement.
“If he gave you your stuff back, we wouldn’t even be here today, would we?” Cosenza said. Bettinger claimed she still would have come forward.
Rings called to the stand Washington County Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Brian Lockhart, who took Elschlager’s initial statement and arrested him Jan. 17.
“He told me he had a GPS unit that he had purchased on her vehicle,” Lockhart said. “He was able to track her movements. We found the GPS unit in the rear of the vehicle on the driver’s side underneath the frame.”
Lockhart also testified that the sheriff’s office compiled Elschlager’s recordings of all of his traffic stops for the past several months, but that all of the December recordings appeared to have been wiped out.
“I think she has established the menacing and abduction charges,” Rings said.
Elschlager’s case will now be sent to Common Pleas court to be heard in front of a grand jury for possible indictment. He already posted his $25,000 bond and is currently on a home confinement system. After the hearing Wednesday, Acting Judge Dennis Sipe ruled the bond conditions to stay the same, with the exception that Elschlager’s family and friends be allowed to visit him.
It is not the first time the lieutenant has faced these types of charges.
In 2007, Elschlager faced misdemeanor charges in Delaware County for domestic violence, assault, disorderly conduct and unlawful restraint after he was accused of fighting with his then-girlfriend. He allegedly struck her in the face and forced her into the bed of his pickup truck and kept her from leaving. Elschlager was never indicted due to a lack of evidence.
Elschlager’s personnel file, provided to The Marietta Times by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, makes note of the 2007 incident in Delaware County, with remarks that he was terminated “for violation of OSP rules and regulations; false statement, truthfulness and conduct unbecoming of an officer.”
From late 2008 until fall 2009 Elschlager was suspended from the highway patrol. Union representatives successfully fought on his behalf, and he was reinstated in late 2009.
The condition of his reinstatement read: “Based on the serious nature of the grievant’s rule violation, it is imperative that Elschlager recognize this to be a last chance opportunity for him to perform satisfactorily for the OSP. As an experienced and highly-trainer trooper and leader, Elschlager needs to exemplify that he can abide by the same conduct and laws that he enforces against the general public.”
Elschlager has not faced any other disciplinary problems, according to the file.
Elschlager came to the Marietta Post in 2014 and was promoted to lieutenant and post commander in July 2015.
More charges related to the case could come later, according to the sheriff’s office.
Rings has said previously that investigators believe some firearms found recently in Elschlager’s possession may have been obtained illegally, possibly from an evidence room.