Eastern Ohio
Victims of the State

24 Cases

Ashtabula County, OH

Gary Beeman

Nov 16, 1975

Gary Beeman was sentenced to death for a murder committed during a robbery. Clair Liuzzo, a prison escapee, testified he saw Beeman with the victim at about the time the coroner estimated the murder occurred and again a little later with blood on his clothes. Liuzzo also claimed Beeman had admitted the crime. The conviction was reversed because the trial judge had prevented Beeman from calling an exculpatory witness. At the retrial in 1979, Beeman was acquitted after five witnesses testified that Liuzzo had confessed to the crime.  (CWC)

Cuyahoga County, OH 

Dr. Sam Sheppard

July 4, 1954

After an intruder entered his home, and brutally murdered his wife, Marilyn, Dr. Sam Sheppard was accused and convicted of the crime. The Sheppard home was in Bay Village on the shore of Lake Erie. Sheppard had an affair some months before and this was portrayed as a motive. Sheppard had some wounds from the real assailant but the prosecution claimed these were self-inflicted. Sheppard described the assailant as a bushy haired man and other witnesses claimed to have seen him. Although its creator denied it, the 1963 TV series, The Fugitive, was widely thought to be based on this case, due to obvious similarities.

Sheppard's defense was not allowed access to forensic evidence prior to trial. When examined after trial, it found that Marilyn had apparently bitten her assailant as one of her teeth was broken outward, and that the killer must have been splattered with blood as the bedroom walls were all splattered except for a spot that was shielded by the assailant's body. Apart from a small spot, Sheppard had no blood on him, nor any bite marks. Backswing blood spatter indicated the assailant swung his weapon with his left hand, while Sheppard was right-handed. Appeals based on this new evidence were denied. Eventually a young lawyer named F. Lee Bailey got interested in the case, took it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and had the conviction overturned. Sheppard was acquitted on retrial in 1966, but died at age 46 in 1970. DNA tests in the 1990's revealed the assailant was a mentally ill man who had once worked at the Sheppard home.  (American Justice)  [9/05]

Cuyahoga County, OH

Donte Booker

Nov 11, 1986

Donte Booker was convicted of a Beachwood rape after being identified by the victim. After being raped, the victim said the rapist took her car. The car was later recovered, but a toy gun that was previously inside it was missing. Booker was arrested in Feb 1987 on an unrelated incident involving a toy gun. The victim identified the toy gun as the one stolen from her, and she identified Booker as her rapist. Booker was paroled in 2002 after refusing chances at an earlier parole because he would not admit he committed the crime. He applied for DNA testing, and in 2005 DNA tests exonerated him of the crime.  (IP)

Cuyahoga County, OH

Anthony Michael Green

May 29, 1988

Anthony Michael Green was convicted of raping a terminally ill nurse who was receiving treatments for liver cancer. The crime occurred at the Cleveland Clinic Center Hotel. The perpetrator had told the victim his name was Tony. Green had worked at the hotel for a short time, but was fired in March 1988 for getting into a fight with another employee. Green's clinic ID badge was among a group of badges shown the victim. The victim identified him at trial. The trial also featured faulty and falsified forensics. DNA tests exonerated Green in 2001.

Following Green's release, the Plain Dealer newspaper wrote an article series about Green's ordeal. The real perpetrator, Rodney Rhines, who had become a Christian and was living at the City Mission, happened to read the series. He had not known that anyone had been convicted for his crime. After reading the series, Rhines, feeling remorse, confessed to mission personnel that he had done the crime and wanted to turn himself in. The Rev. Brent Reynolds told him, “You won't be coming back out once you walk into that police station.” “Yes, I know,” said Rhines. Rhines had once worked for the Cleveland Clinic in the hotel kitchen. Even though the victim identified Green, Green does not resemble Rhines. Rhines's skin and eyes are darker and his face wider. Green was awarded $2.6 million in 2004 for 13 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (Plain Dealer) (IP)  [5/08]

Cuyahoga County, OH

Brian Piszczek

July 29, 1990

Brian Piszczek was convicted of rape, felonious assault, and burglary after being identified by the victim from a photo lineup. He had once been to the victim's house with a mutual friend. DNA tests exonerated Piszczek in 1994.  (IP) (CBJ)  [12/05]

Cuyahoga County, OH 

Eve Rudd

June 10, 2001

Twenty-seven-year-old Eve Rudd was indicted by a grand jury for the arson murders of her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. Authorities charged Rudd after finding pour patterns, which they said were evidence that she had doused clothing and papers in a second-floor bedroom with cooking oil and set the room ablaze. But the pour patterns proved to be a faulty indicator of arson.

Kenneth Gibson, a fire investigator retained by defense lawyers, videotaped an experiment with cooking oil and found it was not an accelerant – the oil by itself was not flammable unless it was heated to 540 degrees. Gerald Hurst, who also investigated the fire for the defense, said there were so many burn patterns, “you can't interpret them anymore.” A jury acquitted Rudd after she spent nine months in jail.  [10/07]

Cuyahoga County, OH

Jacobs Field Three

June 11, 2002

Clinton Oliver, Donald Krieger and Andrew Mendez attended a Cleveland Indians baseball game at Jabobs Field in Cleveland. They had upper level seats. After the game began, Oliver and Krieger moved to box seats at ground level while Mendez stayed in the upper deck. At the top of the ninth inning, an explosion occurred in the lower level seats, which injured four people. Witnesses offered contradictory statements about the device that caused the explosion, but one described it as a “small soup can,” thrown from the upper level. Stadium authorities arrested the three men because their tickets had adjoining upper level seat numbers above the explosion site. Oliver and Krieger were held for four days before a security camera showed they were seated at ground level when the explosion occurred.
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Hocking County, OH

Dale Johnston

Oct 4, 1982 (Logan)

Dale Johnston was sentenced to death for the murders of his stepdaughter, Annette Cooper Johnston, 18, and her fiancé, Todd Shultz, 19. The two were reported missing on Oct. 4, 1982. Ten days later their torsos were found in the Hocking River. Body parts were later found buried in a cornfield. The conviction was due to hypnotically induced testimony and alleged boot print forensics. The prosecutor contended that the victims had been killed in Johnston's home and that their bodies were later discarded in the cornfield eleven miles away. After Johnston's conviction was vacated, it became known that the prosecution had withheld knowledge of four independent witnesses who had seen the couple shortly before their murder and had heard gunshots near the cornfield. Johnston could prove he was home at the time the shots were fired. Johnston was released in 1990 and charges against him were dropped.  (CWC)  [7/05]

Lorain County, OH

New York Boys

Aug 7, 1992

Lenworth Edwards, Alfred Cleveland, and Benson Davis are natives of New York and were convicted of murdering Marsha Blakely and Floyd Epps solely because of the testimony of William McAuther Avery Jr., a convicted perjurer. All are serving life sentences.  (Justice: Denied) (NYB)  [5/05]

Lorain County, OH 

Smith & Allen


Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen were convicted of child abuse. Smith, a Head Start school bus driver allegedly drove students to Allen's house where the students were molested. Smith, a white woman, and Allen, a dark complexioned black, were an unlikely pair and denied ever having met each other. The two were convicted on the testimony of child witnesses whose testimony changed over time, and on the testimony of adults who were facing unrelated criminal charges. School attendance and bus records show the crimes to be impossible. Smith was sentenced to 30 to 90 years in prison and ordered to pay the costs of prosecution. Allen was sentenced to five consecutive life terms. No physical evidence existed that any child was molested.  (Crime Magazine) (JD)  [2/07]

Portage County, OH

Gondor & Resh

Aug 14, 1988

Bob Gondor and Randy Resh were convicted of murdering Connie Nardi, 31. Nardi had left the Upper Deck pub in Mantua with Troy Busta for a ride on his motorcycle. Three hours later Busta returned to the pub alone. They next day Nardi's dead body was found in a pond. She had been strangled. At about the same time that Nardi and Busta left the pub, Gondor entered the pub and joined his friend Resh. The two friends knew Busta from the pub, but did not consider him much more than an acquaintance. The two left the pub to visit the nearby Village Tavern, but returned after an hour.

Authorities used Gondor and Resh's absence from the pub to assert that they rendezvoused with Busta. The three then allegedly attempted to rape Nardi, but killed her when she resisted. Busta agreed to testify against Gondor and Resh and his testimony led to their convictions. In 2002, a judge overturned the convictions because defense attorneys failed to locate exculpatory evidence in the prosecutor's master file. However, few believed the defense attorneys were that incompetent and instead believed the prosecution played hide and seek with the evidence.

The missed evidence revealed authorities coerced testimony, blurred timelines, and concealed forensic data. Among this evidence is a taped interview with Busta in which he admits a willingness to say anything to avoid going to the electric chair. The prosecutor, David Norris, left office in 1994 for cocaine possession, but his successor fought the judge's ruling. In Dec. 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the 2002 ruling and ordered new trials for Gondor and Resh. Resh was acquitted on retrial in April 2007. Gondor was scheduled for retrial, but nine days after Resh's acquittal, charges against him were dropped.  (Cleveland Scene)  [6/07]

Portage County, OH

Tyrone Noling

Apr 5, 1990 (Atwater Twp)

Tyrone Noling was sentenced to death for the murders of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig, both 81. Noling was involved in the robberies of two other elderly couples, so he might appear a suspect. However, Noling, 18, was an amateur robber, who had fled from a robbery “like a scared rabbit” when his gun accidentally discharged into a victim's hardwood floor. The robberies occurred in Noling's neighborhood while the Hartig murders occurred in a secluded area 15 miles away. No physical evidence connects Noling. In addition, nothing was stolen from the Hartig's even though the victims had wallets and rings on them.

Following the murders, the Hartig killer rifled through their documents as though he was looking for something. Some documents were thrown on top of a shell casing. The night before the murders, Bearnhardt Hartig told his doctor friend he planned to confront an insurance agent friend who had defaulted on a $10,000 loan that Hartig had given him. Records of the loan were missing from Hartig's house.

The prosecution secured agreements for three alleged accomplices to testify against Noling, although one jumped ship at trial. The testimony of the alleged accomplices disagreed with each other, known facts, and their earlier statements. There were hundreds of discrepancies, both trivial and critical. Noling also suffered from incompetent counsel.

Investigator Ron Craig and the now-disgraced prosecutor David Norris were also involved in the disputed convictions of Bob Gondor and Randy Resh. A public defender investigator of both cases commented, “I thought something like that could only happen once. I was wrong.”  (tyronenoling.com) (Cleveland Scene)  [12/06]

Stark County, OH

Julius Krause

Oct 20, 1930

Julius Krause confessed to the robbery and murder of an 81-year-old grocer after police convinced him there was no way he could be acquitted. Four years later Krause's supposed accomplice gave a deathbed statement in which he named Curtis Kuermerle as his actual partner. When officials failed to act on the information, Krause did it for them. In 1940, he escaped from prison, tracked Kuermerle down, and convinced him to confess to authorities. Krause then turned himself and Kuermerle in, fully expecting to be released. Kuermerle was convicted of manslaughter. However, Krause's conviction was not vacated, but only commuted to second-degree murder, making him eligible for parole. Krause was kept in prison for another 11 years before being paroled in 1951.  (The Innocents) (Presumed Guilty)  [11/07]

Stark County, OH

Dale Bundy

Nov 23, 1956

Harry Dale Bundy was convicted of murdering Reynold P. Amodio during a holdup of the County Line Market north of Uniontown. Amodio was the store manager. A clerk, Paul E. Cain, was also killed.  In Feb. 1957, a few months after the crime, Bundy's friend and former co-worker, Russell T. McCoy, visited him when he was working the night shift at a Zanesville plant. McCoy asked Bundy for a loan and told him he had just murdered the people he lived with. Bundy did not believe McCoy's story and told him to go home. McCoy, age 22, then threatened Bundy, age 39, with a gun and told him not to repeat what he heard.
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Stark County, OH

Robert Domer

Apr 23, 1963

Robert K. Domer was sentenced to death for the murder of a corpse that he used to stage his own suicide. Domer owned a Canton, OH mortgage company which was going through hard times due to an economic downturn and because an employee had made loans that went bad because he did not follow proper procedures. This employee then ran off with some of the company's funds. Domer himself had illegally manipulated the company funds to keep the company afloat. After auditors came to look at his books, Domer faced disgrace and possible criminal charges.
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Stark County, OH

John Gillard

Jan 1, 1985 (Canton)

John Grant Gillard was sentenced to death for shooting three people, killing two of them. John's brother, William Gillard, attended a New Year's Eve party. While there, Leroy Ensign beat William and forcibly ejected him from the party. William returned later, after midnight, and fired a shot into the air. Shortly thereafter, Ensign, Denise Maxwell, and Ron Postlethwaite were shot. Ensign and Maxwell died. Police put out an all points bulletin for a truck driven by William, the truck seen leaving the scene of the shootings.

Four hours after the shootings, the Ohio Highway Patrol caught William trying to flee the state. He had high-velocity blood spatter on him that placed him within two feet of the victims at the moment they were shot. Tests showed that blood spots found on him were consistent with all three victims. Police did not issue an arrest warrant for his brother John until Jan 2.

Police later claimed they lost Postlethwaite's original statement as to the identity of the shooter. At trial, Postlethwaite identified John as the shooter. Postlethwaite also testified that he had at least eight beers and was sleeping in a poorly lit room at the time of the shootings. During trial, the state emphatically maintained that Postlethwaite identified John immediately after the shootings. However, the lead investigator has since admitted that the investigation had focused originally on William.

John's attorney, Louis Martinez, also represented William. During John's trial Martinez challenged the evidence against William, even though doing so prejudiced John. William testified at John's trial stating that he was not present at the shootings and he tried to explain away the physical evidence that implicated himself. After entering into a plea agreement that allowed him to be immediately paroled, William testified at the trial of another man that he (William) was present when Ensign was shot, but fled prior to the other shootings.  (Appeals)  [2/08]

Stark County, OH

Christopher Bennett

May 29, 2001

Christopher Bennett was charged with vehicular homicide after the van he was in crashed and killed a fellow occupant, Ronald Young, 42. The crash occurred on Baywood Street in Paris Township. Neither Bennett nor Young were wearing a seat belt before the crash. Bennett pleaded guilty to the charge after a witness report and the state crash expert, Trooper Toby Wagner, indicated that he was the driver. After Bennett's amnesia cleared in prison, he realized that he was the passenger. Bennett requested that the blood from the van be tested and such tests appear to exonerate him. The van had a driver's side airbag and Young's injuries were consistent with hitting the airbag. Bennett's injuries were consistent with hitting the windshield. Another witness has come forward who said Young was the driver. Bennett's conviction was overturned in 2006, and he faces a possible retrial.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [9/06]

Summit County, OH 

Jimmy Williams


Jimmy “Spunk” Williams was convicted of the rape of a 12-year-old girl. An attorney, appointed to represent him at a parole hearing in Dec. 2000, set up a meeting with the father of the victim. Three months later the victim recanted her identification of Williams. The victim originally claimed she was raped after her parents confronted her about sucker marks, which were on her neck. The victim and a girlfriend testified they had been experimenting with sexual activity, and the girlfriend, who was also 12, had made the sucker marks. At trial, doctors could not say that the victim was raped. They could only say the victim was not a virgin. The victim apparently still maintained she had been raped, but stated in court that she did not see her assailant's face. Williams was released in 2001 and awarded $750,000 by the state of Ohio in 2005.  (Plain Dealer) (Vindicator) (AP News)  [9/07]

Summit County, OH

Nate Lewis

Oct 12, 1996

Christina Heaslet Beard accused a fellow University of Akron student, Nathaniel “Nate” Lewis, of raping her in her dorm room. Several weeks prior to Lewis's trial, someone anonymously mailed Lewis photocopied excerpts of Heaslet's diary. The excerpts were highly exculpatory of Lewis. They included, “I think I pounced on Nate because he was the last straw... I'm sick of men taking advantage of me... and I'm sick of myself for giving in to them. I'm not a nympho like all those guys think. I'm just not strong enough to say no to them. I'm tired of being a whore. This is where it ends.”

After Heaslet was ordered to produce the diary, the trial judge reviewed it. The diary also indicated a financial motive for the rape accusation: “Speaking of money, I'm suing Nate. I'm desperate for money! My consience (sic) wouldn't allow me to do that before, but I'm going to do whatever I have to to get out of debt.” The judge excluded the most relevant parts of the diary from being introduced at trial. He ruled that they were barred under Ohio's rape shield law. Faced with a conflict between, “he said the sex was consensual,” and “she said it was rape,” the jury convicted Lewis.

On appeal, the federal Sixth Circuit Court overturned Lewis's conviction in 2002, ruling that the trial judge improperly interfered with Lewis's right to confront his accuser. The prosecution then dropped charges. In 2004, a judge granted Lewis a declaration of innocence. The judge cited several factors: (1) Beard invited Lewis to her dorm room. (2) She drank alcohol in Lewis's presence. (3) She called her roommate to ensure she and Lewis would be alone. (4) She took a birth control pill in front of Lewis. The judge also wrote, “... Heaslet had several sex partners and occasionally had intercourse on first dates, which casts doubt on her previous assertions of only engaging in meaningful relationships.” In 2005, Lewis was awarded $662,000, although $250,000 of it was fees for his lawyers.  (Akron Beacon Journal) (Justice: Denied)  [9/07]

Summit County, OH

Brett Hartmann

Sept 9, 1997 (Akron)

Brett Hartmann was sentenced to death for the murder of Winda Snipes. Snipes was brutally beaten, strangled, and stabbed over 135 times. Her throat was cut and her hands were cut off. The cord with which she was strangled was taken from a clock that stopped at 4:38. This evidence suggests she was murdered at 4:38 a.m. or 4:38 p.m.
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Summit County, OH

Clarence Elkins

June 7, 1998 (Barberton)

Clarence Elkins was convicted of the rape and murder of his 58-year-old mother-in-law, Judith Johnson. Johnson was assaulted in her one-bedroom rental home on Summit Street in Barberton, OH. The assailant also assaulted Johnson's six-year-old granddaughter, Brooke Sutton, knocking her unconscious before strangling and sexually assaulting her. He left her for dead. Later evidence indicated Sutton herself was the intended target of the assailant and Johnson was killed merely for being in the way. Sutton, however, was not dead but regained consciousness after a few hours.
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Summit County, OH

Denny Ross

May 20, 1999

Denny Frederick Ross was tried in Akron for the murder of 18-year-old Hannah Hill. Hill had disappeared one night and her body was found stuffed in the trunk of her Geo Prizm six days later. She had been beaten and strangled. Her body was found naked from the waist down and her bra and shirt were pushed up over her breasts. This display of her body suggested she was raped, but an autopsy found no evidence of rape and also determined that she was wearing her corduroy pants when she died. Hill had been romantic with Ross on the night of her disappearance and one theory of her murder is that her jealous and abusive boyfriend, Brad O'Born, had killed her for her infidelity. O'Born had scratch marks on his neck when police questioned him in the days following her disappearance.
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Summit County, OH

Michael Roper

Apr 17, 2000

Michael Roper was convicted of the murder of Taleb “Tom” Husein. Husein owned a Lakeshore Boulevard convenience store and was killed during an aborted robbery attempt. Roper was identified as the murderer by Husein's girlfriend and by a doughnut deliveryman. A jail inmate also testified that Roper confessed to the killing.

Roper first three trials ended in hung juries as jurors could not agree on a verdict. He was convicted at his fourth trial. Since Roper's conviction, evidence has surfaced identifying three alternative suspects, which prosecutors knew about prior to Roper's trial. One of the suspects is said to closely resemble Roper. A source told Akron police a week after Roper's arrest, that the alternative suspect is “off his script (insane) and has a heart of coal and killing would (be) easy for him, if someone doesn't end up killing him first.”

Prosecutors say the alternative suspect evidence was in a file they shared with Roper's defense attorneys, but the defense attorneys disagree. Apparently prosecutors were playing “hide and seek” with the evidence. According to defense attorney Jana DeLoach, “There's no question the jury would have found reasonable doubt as to Mr. Roper's guilt and they would have acquitted him had they been told about the other suspects.” In 2005, a judge denied Roper's request for a fifth trial.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [10/07]

Tuscarawas County, OH

Anthony Harris

June 27, 1998

Anthony Harris, who was 12 at the time, was coerced into confessing to killing 5-year-old Devan Duniver. The two were neighbors in a New Philadelphia apartment complex. Harris was convicted by a Juvenile Court judge despite there being no physical evidence linking him to the crime. His case was featured on the TV show 20/20. 20/20 has discovered that in the last two years before the show aired, nearly a dozen kids under the age of 17 confessed to murder, only to be later proven innocent.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [6/05]