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Sentences handed down in murder case

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Sometimes you just have to play the hand you’re dealt.

    That was certainly the case in Bedford County Circuit Court last week for Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz who had two different defendants—claiming two different accounts about the disposal of the body of Sean Placko—sentenced for the same crime.
    Susan Jeannie Dudley, 26, of Waynesboro has maintained the story that only she helped her husband, Christopher Michael Dudley, pack Placko’s body into a container and drop it over the Snowden Bridge into the James River in March 2010.
    Andrew Clay Ottinger, meanwhile, a friend of the Dudleys, has said all along that he helped Christopher Dudley get rid of the body, along with Susan Dudley. Ottinger, 23, has also stated that he was at the Augusta County murder site when Christopher Dudley killed Placko.
    Both Susan Dudley and Ottinger were sentenced last week  for felony  concealment of a body, as the final sentences in the case were handed down.
    This past May, Christopher Dudley was sentenced to 37 years in prison for the first-degree murder of Placko, 42, of Churchville. He had pleaded no contest to the murder and concealment charges.
    On Friday, Krantz said Ottinger had cooperated with authorities since being arrested. Ottinger was sentenced to three years in prison on the concealment charge, of which he had to serve one year, four months, roughly the amount of time he has been in jail since being arrested. Ottinger was also originally charged with first-degree murder and has been held in jail since his arrest. That charge was dropped this summer.
    Susan Dudley was also sentenced to three years in prison, with all but 90 days suspended. She had not served time in jail, prior to sentencing.
    Placko was murdered sometime around the middle of February 2010, with the actual date at issue, depending on whether the Dudleys account or Ottinger’s version is true. One fact Ottinger and Susan Dudley agreed upon was that the reason they helped Christopher Dudley get rid of Placko’s body was because they were afraid he might kill them as well if they didn’t.
    Ottinger said he was at Placko’s home doing drugs when the murder occurred. He had testified in previous hearings that he got physically sick, seeing Placko’s body after he was killed.
    Placko’s body was found March 7, 2010, in the James River by a fisherman. The last time Placko’s cell phone was used was Feb. 15, and on Feb. 16 the Dudleys were recorded by video surveillance cameras stopping at a Walmart and purchasing materials used to dispose of Placko’s body.
    Ottinger has maintained that Placko was murdered after Feb. 16. If Ottinger’s account could have been proven, Susan Dudley could have been charged as an accessory prior to the murder.
    With Susan Dudley’s account stating Ottinger wasn’t a part of concealing the body, he could have recanted his story and possibly not faced charges, Krantz stated. But all along, Ottinger has said he was telling the truth.
    That was the dilemma Krantz was faced with, whose account to believe.
    Krantz said Ottinger was bright and had a supportive family but “was simply running with the wrong crowd” and got into drugs, something he had started doing as a teen. He had also been discharged from the military under other than honorable conditions.
    “Mr. Ottinger has great potential,” Krantz said Friday. “He has skills. If there is one thing that has held Mr. Ottinger back, it is his substance abuse.”    
    It is believed the motive for Placko’s murder was to take money from him. Placko had, just prior to his murder, obtained a sizable inheritance.