Friday, November 11, 2016
BJ obituary/article about Joan Rice’s husband
Retired sheriff’s detective dies at 79
Capt. Larry Momchilov most noted for work on murder-for-hire case
By Marilyn Miller
Beacon Journal staff writer
Retired Summit County Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Momchilov was described by his peers as a top-notch investigator who had passion for the job and compassion for the criminals he arrested.
Capt. Momchilov, 79, died Sunday. Calling hours will be 5-8 p.m. Friday at the Kent State University Parish Newman Center in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel, 1424 Horning Road. A burial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Capt. Momchilov worked on countless cases, but is most noted for his work on the Dean Milo murder-for-hire case of a prominent businessman found shot to death inside his Bath Township home on Aug. 10, 1980. The case was solved after nearly two years. Eleven people were convicted, including the brother of the victim. The case holds the record for the most arrests and convictions in the United States for a single murder for which Capt. Momchilov was inducted into the police officer’s hall of fame.
He is also known for his work in the conviction of James D. Bell II, a former Akron industrialist, socialite and child sex offender.
Capt. Momchilov worked in the sheriff’s department for 42 years under six sheriffs from Robert Campbell to Drew Alexander. He organized and led an all-volunteer Search and Recovery Dive Team to aid in gathering evidence. He also trained at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
“Most of his service was investigations. He was the detective bureau commander. He was a great teacher. He really enjoyed teaching young deputies how to get out and develop leads. He was old school. He liked to get out from behind the desk and beat the bushes, talking to people and looking for clues,” said current Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry, who was one of Capt. Momchilov’s students. “He’d even get out there with us.”
His expertise was relied on by other police agencies and outside investigators.
Rich Munsey of the Bath Township Police Department said he took a homicide class from Capt. Momchilov and learned a lot when he worked with him on the Milo case.
“He was a great teacher and mentor. I was the only guy in the detective bureau in Bath at the time and he was the No. 1 guy in the sheriff’s department for murder investigations,” he said. “He was a great supervisor when we worked together. He was not a micromanager, always fair and was always very calm.”
Former Summit County Chief Prosecutor Fred Zuch said Capt. Momchilov was easy to work with and well respected. “He had the ability to put together very solid cases, organizing very complex cases and not missing any details. He knew what prosecutors needed. He had the respect of probably everybody in the criminal justice system, he was a class act,” said Zuch.
“He was a good communicator, people respected him for his skills and passion for the job and there were even times where the defendants even respected him. I know I talked to defendants that we prosecuted.”
Capt. Momchilov welcomed added forces if it would help solve a case.
William Dear, a flamboyant private detective from Dallas known for taking high-profile cases around the country, was attracted to the Milo case. While there were three principal investigators on the case, Capt. Momchilov was the lead, Dear recalled.
“When I arrived they weren’t even going to speak to me,” Dear said. “I made a statement that I could work on the case with or without them, but I’d rather do it with them. They had a meeting with sheriff [David] Troutman for a couple of hours, then came back and said they agreed we could work as a team. I know it was because of Larry and that developed a friendship from day one. He and I teamed up to work together. The other team was Munsey and Bill Lewis, also a detective in the sheriff’s department.”
Dear said even after the Milo case, they would call and check on each other.
“I’d call him up about a case and pick his brain. He’s one of the greatest guys you’ll ever know. He was super intelligent. He really cared about what he was doing. He was also a great family man and was devoted to his wife.”
He said he last talked to Capt. Momchilov the night before he died.
Dan Moldea, of Akron, a crime reporter for 42 years, also said the captain was a good friend. They met 35 years ago during the Milo case, a story Moldea retold in his book, The Hunting of Cain: A True Story of Money, Greed and Fratricide.
“I’ve known a lot of legendary homicide detectives and Larry was as good as any of them. He was thorough and as a person he was a decent person, he was a man you could trust. So many cops become hardened after so many cases and bitter and cynical but Larry never got that way,” Moldea said.
“He saw the humanity in people, even criminals, even murderers. I don’t think I ever saw that in detectives where he saw the humanity in people, especially those he investigated and put in jail. They appreciated the kind of person he was.”
Capt. Momchilov is survived by wife of 36 years, former Beacon Journal assistant features editor and reporter Joan Rice, and his children, a son, Lawrence Momchilov Jr., and daughters, Diane (Dennis) Bueker, Christine (Richard) Klempay and Susan (John) Yonkin.