COPLEY TWP.: A Copley Township man, despondent over the likely loss of his beloved alpaca farm, set his home on fire before shooting himself in the head, police investigators have determined.
The recently concluded investigation into the Sept. 27 death of Edward Draher found that the 66-year-old man crafted an elaborate suicide plan over several days before taking his own life inside the house he held so precious.
Copley police released their investigation files Wednesday. The voluminous case file includes details of his plans, ominous emails Draher sent to friends in the days leading up to his death and his curious use of a sock to cover the gun used to kill himself.
Police say Draher’s wife, Cindy, had been urging her husband to agree and sell the 27-acre farm on Earhart Avenue because of pressing financial concerns and their advancing ages.
Draher, however, loved the land and did not want to leave the property, where he and his wife had lived for about 20 years, his friends told police.
Ultimately, the farm became a source of contention between the Drahers and the apparent motivation behind his suicide plan, Detective Joe Krunich said Wednesday.
“They couldn’t keep up with the farm. She wanted to sell it. But he didn’t want to leave the farm,” Krunich said.
In two emails to two different friends, Draher appears to blame his wife for his unhappiness. Police say Cindy Draher gave her husband an ultimatum on Sept. 24: Sell the house or divorce.
“My friend, please pray for me for I’m afraid and in despair. She is really doing a job on me and I don’t know what’s next or what to do,” Draher wrote in one email.
“If anything happens to me, you will know she is behind it!”
Cindy Draher, 61, learned of the investigation details on Wednesday. She said her husband was struggling with the decision to move, but she doesn’t believe he would plot a scheme in which she would be accused of killing him.
“I hope that’s not the case where he was trying to set me up,” she said. “I know he’s not capable of something like that,” she said. “We had some good times together. But I know I will never be able to figure out why this happened. No one can explain it and no one ever will. I know that.
“I just hope people don’t judge my husband over this. He could be a good person.”
Investigators learned through credit card bills that Draher visited a Montrose gas station in his diesel pickup truck Sept. 25 and filled several cans with fuel.
Police say the 4,000-square-foot home was equipped with a smoke and fire alarm system monitored by a private security company. However, wires to the fire system were cut before the fire was set, police said.
Krunich said investigators found two 2.5-gallon plastic gas cans inside Draher’s home. At least one of them was punctured several times near the bottom as if to allow gas to pour out. One was located near a computer room where Draher’s body was found. The other was found on the opposite end of the house where the fire appears to have been started.
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office believe Draher set the fire and then walked to his computer room where he got on a couch. Using a .32-caliber handgun, Draher then shot himself in the back of his head, about 2 inches behind his left ear.
Oddly, it appears Draher covered the gun with a sock before firing the weapon.
Police Chief Michael Mier said investigators theorize that Draher covered the gun with a sock to conceal potential gunshot residue and the suicide. They also believe Draher hoped the sock might burn away in the fire. It did not.
Unsure of intent
Detectives, he said, can’t be sure if by using the sock Draher was simply hoping to avoid the stigma of dying by suicide or attempting to make it appear that he was murdered and frame someone, possibly his wife, with the killing.
“Based on the emails and the sock, it is possible he was trying to make this look like a homicide,” Mier said.
Cindy Draher had left for work shortly after 8 a.m., a fact noted by neighbors and friends. One neighbor told police she heard what sounded like a gunshot at about 8:30 a.m.
A handyman who worked for the Drahers for about 15 years found the burning house when he visited about 11:20 a.m. Police interviewed the 58-year-old man and he agreed to a polygraph exam. He passed. Police say there was no trace of gas on his clothing or any gunshot residue on his hands.
There were, however, traces of fuel on Draher’s clothing and gunshot residue on his left hand, the reports show.
The Drahers met in Salem and married 21 years ago. They settled on the Earhart Avenue farm on the eastern edge of Copley Township.
Friends say the vast farm provided a quiet life for Draher, an avid outdoorsman. He had about a dozen alpacas at the time of his death.
While Cindy Draher operated a property management company in Akron, Draher received disability payments. He suffered from diabetes.
On Wednesday, Cindy Draher said the past several months have been emotionally draining. She has been living with a friend since the fire, visiting her charred home only to go through the remains in search of photographs or other personal items.
Although the house was insured, she is unsure whether the company will pay her claim because her husband set the fire. She wanted to thank her friends and family for their help.
“I lost my husband, my home and my dog in a split second,” she said. “It’s been unimaginable. I don’t know where I’d be without the help of my friends and neighbors.”
Police concluded their two-month investigation by eliminating any hint of foul play.
“There was nothing discovered in this investigation indicating that anyone other than Edward Draher was responsible for the events that took place on Sept. 27, 2012,” Krunich concluded in his report.
Phil Trexler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3717.