News: Mistaken Identity

Lance Love's arrest puts citizen at ease

Jun 17, 1999 at 2:06 pm
Police say Lance Love is an expert at blending in.

Jeffrey VanSluys never thought he looked like a fugitive. His professional hair stylist even told him that he looked like an average person. Maybe that is why police didn't immediately recognize the mistake when someone called police to report that murder suspect Lance Love was hanging out on Sixth Street downtown a few weeks ago.

Love, who police say is just a "normal looking guy," had eluded police for almost a month before he was caught downtown after police got a tip from a 911 call. Love was wanted for questioning in connection with a May 13 slaying of Prospect Hill businessman Jim Osterbrock.

And now that he's caught, VanSluys and the others that were mistaken for Love can rest easy.

"(I was sitting there on Sixth Street) with my CD player on and sunglasses on waiting for my friend to pick me up," VanSluys said. "My ride was late so I was out there for a little while when I see this police car pull up diagonally from me. I wondered why they were stopping."

But VanSluys would not wonder for long.

"Suddenly I had three police officers surrounding me and asking for my ID," he said.

When VanSluys asked why he needed to show identification, he said an officer replied, "Because I said so."

"That's just so rude," VanSluys said.

As it turned out, there was another reason that police were questioning him. Someone had called the police to report that Love was standing on Sixth Street. When police got to the scene, all they found was a very frustrated VanSluys whose friend was late picking him up.

"I'm Asian," he replied when asked whether he thought he looked anything like Love. "I was treated like a criminal, and I look nothing like Lance Love. All they had to do was take one look at my arms and see that there's not one tattoo on them."

But police said that Love had been very careful to cover up his tattoos, knowing that it was something that could identify him.

On May 14, Love, 32, led police on a chase through Clermont County while driving the slain businessman's GMC Yukon truck. Love crashed the truck and fled into the woods. He continued to elude police until his arrest June 10.

There was a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to Love's arrest.

Police Spec. Karen Chaney-Harris said that Crime Stoppers was flooded with calls when Love first escaped police.

"In the beginning, we received numerous calls in regards to Lance Love," she said. "But they started to die down in the last week or so (before police caught him)."

Although not all the calls were helpful, police made sure to respond to all of them, said Jim Engelhardt, Cincinnati homicide detective.

"We had a lot of calls (about potential sightings of Love), but that's what we need" he said. "Many of the calls did not pan out. But you have to check out each one of the calls."

One of the calls that sticks out in Engelhardt's mind is the one that said Love was at Paramount's Kings Island.

"I don't think Love, knowing that he was wanted, would go to Kings Island," he said.

Engelhardt said that the reason for all the calls and Love being able to evade police for so long was because he looks like "everyone."

"He really blended in, and he never did anything to draw attention to himself," he said. "In my opinion he is just an ordinary looking guy."

Engelhardt said that recognizing Love would not be easy unless you knew him.

In fact, the 911 caller who led police to Love June 10, told the dispatcher exactly that. He said he knew Love from a homeless shelter.

Police have not released details of the businessman's death or the possible involvement of Love.

In the meantime, VanSluys said that he has calmed down over his case of mistaken identity.

"Now, it's a big joke because I don't even look like this guy," he said.

But one thing is for sure, VanSluys said he never would allow his friend to be late again.

"If he wouldn't have been late, none of this would have happened," VanSluys said. "He got into big trouble." ©