Officer Justin Hovancik's patrol car was still going through a car wash when his fellow Butler Township officers sped off to pursue a silver Hyundai Tiburon. The driver was wanted in connection with the disappearance of Melissa Barto, a 26-year-old Butler native who would be found dead two days later by a farmer in a field in Lawrence County.
Testifying in court on Wednesday, Hovancik recalled the moments leading up to the arrest of Ishemer Ramsey, 22, of Lyndora on June 10, 2017. Ramsey was driving to Jodi McCullough's house in Connequenessing Township, whose family was caring for Ramsey's dog while he was in military boot camp.
Police believe that Ramsey had killed Barto, who has his girlfriend at the time, two days before his arrest. For that, he is facing homicide and he is also accused of burning and hiding her body with the help of a friend.
Hovancik waited for about two minutes until the washing process was complete on his patrol car and then drove to join Patrolmen Max Wittlinger and Tyler Collins, who had followed Ramsey to the McCullough home on Eagle Mill Road. There, they approached Ramsey and told him about the reported disappearance. According to testimony from all three officers, Ramsey had a gun on him, which he relinquished to the McCulloughs, who then gave it to the police.
Officers took Ramsey away to be questioned and Hovancik entered the Tiburon from the passenger side, since the driver's side door didn't open from the outside. Hovancik noticed that the passenger seat and carpet had been removed. He also saw a bottle of bleach near a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken containing food that was half eaten. The car was loaded with equipment, along with other things, too.
Read more about this case in Thursday's Butler Eagle.