Deacon J. Zelch

Authorities allege a Bourbon area man used a backhoe to bury a murder victim, along with a couch and other evidence related to the crime.

According to the probable cause statement filed in the Crawford County Prosecutor’s office, a person connected to the investigation told authorities that Deacon J. Zelch admitted to killing Edward J. Hillhouse, 28, by shooting him in the head with a .22-caliber rifle in April 2016.

Zelch was charged Monday in Crawford County Circuit Court with murder and armed criminal action. He is being held at the Crawford County Jail on a $1,145,000 cash-only bond.

The witness told authorities with the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Unit (MCNVCU) and Crawford County Sheriff’s office that the body of Hillhouse was on a couch in the home of Zelch in the 2000 block of Highway J in Bourbon.

The witness saw the body April 27 and returned the next day and saw a backhoe at the home. Zelch allegedly admitted to using the equipment to bury the body of Hillhouse, along with the couch and evidence in the crime.

Investigators searched the home Wednesday, Sept. 20, and located Hillhouse’s remains and the couch. A medical examiner ruled that Hillhouse was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head by a small caliber weapon.

Hillhouse’s family members urged authorities to search for the man who had been missing for 17 months.

At the request of Bourbon Police, the MCNVCU was called to assist in the investigation. As the investigation unfolded, investigators determined the missing person investigation was a suspected possible homicide that had occurred in Crawford County.

Zelch was named as a person of interest as the investigation unfolded. He is known to frequent the Bourbon and Sullivan areas.

The MCNVCU is based in Franklin County and provides investigative services for Bourbon police, according to the Crawford County Sheriff’s office.