Editor’s note — This is the first of a three-part investigative series on convicted two-time Highland County murdered Michael Fogt. After the bodies of his former wife and an acquaintance were discovered in Hillsboro in 2005, Fogt’s involvement in other local crimes was called into question. His connections to the disappearances of Carrie Culberson and Shane Neuhaus have led some to believe he could be a Highland County serial killer.
In recent years, there has not been a more violent offender in Hillsboro than Michael Fogt. From 1998 to 2003, Fogt murdered two ex-girlfriends and disposed of their bodies on his property. In the years that followed, Fogt continued to help raise his teenage daughter, all while one of her father’s victims, her very own mother, lie under a concrete slab just outside his home.
But in 2005, two major crimes were finally uncovered and he was brought to justice. This is the story of Fogt; a tale of deception, violence and the ongoing quest for answers in unsolved local disappearances.
Fogt has a long history of violent crimes that gradually escalated from 1994 to 2005. In 1994, he was convicted of raping a Hillsboro woman; in 1998, he shot a man named Jarrod Messer, but no charges were pressed. These disturbing behaviors were not the end of Michael Fogt’s criminal record.
While in county jail on unrelated charges in March of 2005, Fogt was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Cynthia Pickens, a 39-year-old who had been missing since November 2003, and Fogt had been a suspect since the beginning. Law enforcement was able to uncover human remains buried in a shallow grave in a steel outbuilding at Fogt’s east Hillsboro auto shop two years after she was reported missing. While this discovery was a breakthrough on its own, what Fogt led them to next was even more shocking.
The body of 32-year old Martha Behymer Perry, Fogt’s former wife, was uncovered in a 55-barrel drum under a slab of concrete sidewalk. Perry had been missing since 1998, and her cause of death was later determined to be suffocation at Fogt’s Blanchester home. It was at his Hillsboro property, though, where her body was eventually buried. It was with her that Fogt fathered a child who was only 14 years old at that the time of his arrest. His daughter had been in the custody of his parents for years, but visitations were regular, an especially disturbing fact considering her missing mother was buried on his property.
There was no doubt in investigator’s minds that Michael Fogt was responsible for these gruesome crimes, and he was charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence. He was found guilty on two counts of murder and sentenced to 45 years to life in prison. His next parole hearing is scheduled for September 30, 2050. If he is still alive at that time, he will be 86.
But at the time of the investigation and trial, there was another name that continued to reappear — that of Fogt’s missing friend and former employee, Shane Neuhaus. In the next installment of this series, the case shifts to the investigation of Shane Neuhaus’ mysterious disappearance and Fogt’s possible involvement.
Isabella Warner is a former stringer for The Times-Gazette.