SANGAMON COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — A community and central Illinois family are demanding answers after losing a friend and brother to prescription drug overdose. Mark Sewell, 65, overdosed on medication, but the details surrounding his death are too suspicious to ignore.
Mark Sewell’s body was found in his Curran Township home on May 2, 2020. Friends and family describe him as a small man, friendly, a little messy; but he was never the type of person to hurt anyone or anything.
Sewell was widowed twice. His first wife died from Cystic fibrosis, and his second wife died in a car accident on her way to pick up fried chicken for dinner. He kept in contact with his brother and sister on a regular basis over the phone, and he always talked to his neighbors whenever he got the chance, but they say the details surrounding his death just don’t seem to add up.
A will was filed nearly a month after he died, and it named his acquaintance, Naomi Ushman, and her family as the ones who were set to inherit his property and possessions.
Naomi admits to drafting this will for Mark to sign, but his family says Mark never intended for her to have his property.
Mark’s brother, Mike, says he’ll never forget the last time he talked to his brother. He said, “The last time I talked to my brother was 9 days before he died. He said, ‘Mike! Call me.’ So, I called him, and he was all in an uproar about the COVID and taking his money out of the bank and hiding it in the house, and I advised him not to do that, and he got off the phone for a minute.”
Mark says his brother called back, and the conversation just didn’t seem right.
“I heard a yelp, like somebody had pinched him or done something, and then he got off the phone again. So, I waited about ten minutes or so… and called him back, and he was back home, and he seemed more normalized. It just kind of scared me over everything going on with him. I got off the phone with him and told him I’d call him the next day, and I didn’t,” Mike Sewell said.
Mike says that call never happened. He said he got caught up with work, “and, then the next thing I know, it was 9 days later. The deputy called me and said that he had passed away, and that they were there with him.”
Mark’s body was found just on the other side of his front door. His faithful dog Buzz was lying right beside him. Mark owned his home and a few other lots, and he charged about $500 a month for rent; but when deputies found him, there was no cash, no credit cards… only questions about what really happened.
“So, when I went to the bank to close out his accounts, I noticed that there were charges on the 8th, which was 6 days after Mark died, and I just started to question that,” Mike Sewell said.
It didn’t take investigators long to find who was using Mark’s card. They quickly tracked down Naomi Ushman for using it twice at the McDonald’s and Qik-n-EZ. Ushman says she got food, gassed up her car, and then the card was declined when she went in the convenience store to buy cigarettes.
Ushman said Mark Sewell gave her the card to use for emergencies, but his family says they reviewed Mark’s bank statements and never noticed another time where she used the card, only after he died.
Investigators with the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office wanted answers, and they talked to Ushman about the credit card, the will, her relationship with Mark and some missing jewelry.
“He was a very good friend. He was my neighbor, and I cleaned and took care of him,” Ushman told Sangamon County Sergeant, Travis Dalby.
She told Sergeant Dalby she was somewhat of a caretaker, and she even had an explanation for using Mark’s credit card after his death.
“So, the card itself was a card that Mark had given me personally, if I needed it here at there,” Ushman said.
However, she told authorities she didn’t realize it was Mark’s card until after it was declined at the Qik-N-EZ.
“It was the only card that I used at McDonald’s maybe, and then maybe Qik-n-EZ, and then realized it, and then took it to the lawyer the next day,” Ushman said.
With authorities from the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office investigating Ushman for credit card fraud, they decided to ask about the will.
“I just knew it wasn’t going to happen with his lawyer. That’s why I went ahead and filed my own up,” Ushman admitted to investigators.
Ushman claims that she, Mark, Joseph Reeff and Jaeann Kampfl all signed the will on March 19, 2020. Ushman claims Reeff was there to buy a blue truck that was on Mark’s property, and she told investigators they were all there while the title was signed over to Reeff; and they then decided to sign this alleged will.
However, Ushman claims the deal was cancelled after Reeff realized the truck didn’t run.
“So, in the will it states that my children are to get it and divide it up at the age of 20. So, really the property isn’t to me. It’s to my children, and I’m supposed to take care of Buzz and the property until then. That’s how it’s broke up,” Ushman said.
Mark’s family says this alleged will was never discussed with them before Mark’s death.
“It’s very unfortunate, and there’s a lot of questions, and not only that, if this is going on… it’s endangering the lives of a lot of other people too,” Mark’s friend, Timothy Green, said.
Green says he had been friends with Mark for more than 40 years. Green says he even stopped by Mark’s home the morning his body was found.
“I was here at 9 a.m. in the morning… knocking on the door, and I thought it was strange that Buzz, a crazy dog, wasn’t barking or this or that, and I rang the phone and beat on the door, and Mark didn’t answer. Little did I know, he was dead on the other side of the door,” Green said.
A deputy was in Mark’s neighborhood when his body was found May 2. A neighbor, Terry Vaughn, had called authorities about some people being loud on his street, and Vaughn then asked the deputy to check on Mark, because he hadn’t seen Mark for a few days.
“I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said it seemed strange.
“I know somebody else went in there before me and saw him. I didn’t go in there. I just stood out on my front porch and told that cop(sic.) that somebody went in there and got that $200 out of his wallet, because he left it at the gas station up there at Thornton’s, and Carl that lives down in there in that trailer next to Naomi. He was in the gas station, and they know he knew “Mark,” and he brought his wallet here, because I saw him over here too,” Vaughn said.
The details surrounding Mark’s death became more suspicious to friends and family. Not only did the will and debit card situation seem suspicious, but they couldn’t find a family ring that he always wore.
“Did Mark ever give you a red ruby ring,” Sergeant Dalby asked.
“No,” Ushman responded.
Sergeant Dalby asked again, “Are you in possession of a red ruby ring,”
“No,” Ushman responded.
“What rings did you go and pawn and Monster Pawn,” Sergeant Dalby asked.
“Those would be a ring he gave me a while back for emergencies, which I used for all for the money for that dog kennel in the back, and to get the dog out,” Ushman responded.
However, Ushman seemed to be wearing a ring that fit a similar description when we questioned her about Mark’s death. We asked to see it. She was hesitant at first, but she agreed.
“Why? So I can serve time for taking care of that old man,” Ushman questioned.
Mike Sewell says, “There’s no way my brother willingly gave her that ring, and he wouldn’t have taken in off to clean it. For the last 20-some years he had it on. He just wore that ring. So that’s really hinky to me. That’s blaring to me.”
The details surrounding Mark’s death continually point back to Naomi Ushman. If foul play was in fact connected to Mark Sewell’s death, we asked Ushman what should happen to the person responsible.
“Yeah, that’s ate up. They should probably find out who did that. They should do… whatever it is they need to do,” Ushman said.
Ushman willingly shared her side of the story about the details surrounding Mark’s death. Jaeann Kampfl and Joseph Reef also signed the will, but we weren’t able to get a response from them in connection to this story. Kampfl only responded to a handful of social media messages, and she reiterated that she didn’t know Mark. Shortly after we reached out to Kampfl about Mark Sewell on social media, Kampfl changed her location to another state. Joseph Reeff is being held in the Sangamon County Jail, and the county sheriff confirms that it is not in relation to Mark Sewell’s death.
Four days after talking to Naomi about Mark Sewell’s death, she called and left a voicemail about who she thought we needed to question about Mark’s untimely death.
“Hey Mac, the only other thing… This is Naomi Ushman. I spoke with you last week. This is the last time I’m going to speak with you. The only other thing I would like to say is that the only ‘person’ that would be able to identify Mark if someone were to have hurt him is Buzz, because he was the only other one there. And, uhm… they’re somebody Buzz continually barked at, and he doesn’t bark at everybody but that Dakota guy. So, Buzz did not like him at all, and Dakota would feed him steaks to keep him from barking and then release him out of the kennel that I would keep him in to get him lost, and that’s about all I know. He is a creepy, has a very creepy disposition… the man. All right, bye,” Ushman added.
We did visit that person’s home to see if he knew anything about Mark’s death or whether anything seemed suspicious about the days surrounding the incident, but he wasn’t home at the time.
The Sangamon County Coroner confirms Mark Sewell died from a drug overdose. It was a combination of Fentanyl and Hydrocodone. Investigators say this case is currently closed, but if you have any other details about what may have happened leading up to Mark Sewell’s untimely death, please give them a call at (217) 753-6886.