Ohio contractor fined for trench death now charged with murder for alleged shooting

Marcia Doyle Headshot
Updated Aug 11, 2018
Gerald P. Koller. Source: Cape Coral Police DepartmentGerald P. Koller. Source: Cape Coral Police Department

This story was updated on Aug. 7, 2018.

A Mason, Ohio, contractor recently fined $201,201 by OSHA following the trench collapse death of Zachary David Hess was arrested in Cape Coral, Florida, on a second-degree murder charge.

According to reports by the Fort Meyers News-Press  and Cincinnati.com, Gerald P. Koller, 49, owner of JK Excavating and Utilities, has been charged with shooting and killing 28-year-old Jonathan Joseph Breadmore at a boat dock behind Koller’s Cape Coral home. Breadmore worked as a boat detailer; his body was found laying on a dock near a boat behind Koller’s house.

A caller reported hearing four to five gunshots, and news reports said police used loudspeakers to order Koller out of his home.

After being seen pacing back and forth in his home, and yelling obscenities, Koller surrendered to police. According to the Cape Coral Police Department report, he then told officers, “Go big or go home. You might as well take me to prison.”

Police say that Koller later told them, “I snapped and that’s all there is to it.” When police asked for an explanation, Koller declined, but later said, “I’m crazy. Just lock me up.”

OSHA fined Koller’s firm in June in response to the December 28, 2017 death of Hess, 25.

Hess’s death was profiled in Equipment World’s recent special report on trench collapse fatalities. He died in a 16-foot trench working on a sewer tap-in at a housing project in Morrow, Ohio. Initial news reports placed the trench at 25 feet deep.

OSHA placed JK Excavating in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program and issued four citations and penalties for violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Act:

  • Willful:$129,336 for exposing employees to cave-in hazards without the use of adequate protective systems.
  • Serious:$42,128 for five violations involving an employee not wearing a hard hat, exposure to overhead struck-by hazard while working beneath a 1,177-pound trench shield suspended by an excavator, working in standing water with no protective measures and/or water removal method, using an aluminum extension ladder that had been separated into two sections to access and egress the trench, and lack of training on the hazards of ladders.
  • Repeat:$28,455, for employee entering a 16-foot-deep trench without suitable means of access and egress.
  • Other-than-serious:$2,282, for JK Excavating failing to ensure provisions were made prior to the project start for prompt medical attention in case of a serious injury, and not having a copy of the trench shield manufacturer’s tabulated data on site and available upon request.