July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

For 38 years, Benedict recorded county trials

Staff Writer
MEDINA — From arraignments to murder trials, court reporter David Benedict has typed and transcribed just about every kind of court proceeding in Courtroom No. 2 since 1970.

“When you have an employee like Dave who has done such a good job, someone else can take his job, but he can never be replaced,” Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler said Friday during Benedict’s retirement party in the courtroom.

Along with Kimbler, Benedict worked as court reporter for judges Ralph Winter, James Foreman and Phillip Baird.

Benedict, 59, has spent almost his entire career at the Medina County Courthouse following about a year in Coshocton County.

A native of the Buffalo, N.Y., area, he became interested in court reporting after reading an advertisement for a correspondence course while still in high school. After finishing, he started a job search.

David Benedict, 59, of Medina, is the man of the hour as friends and colleagues wish him well during his retirement party Friday afternoon in Courtroom No. 2. Benedict served 38 years as a court reporter at the Medina County Courthouse.
(Shirley Ware | Photo Editor)

“I found an almanac that had names of all the county seats and started sending letters,” Benedict said about getting his first job.

By far, the most memorable trial he worked on was for 17-year-old Teresa Bickerstaff, who along with her boyfriend, Eric “Scooter” Davis, was convicted of killing her mother and two brothers in their home near Lodi in 1980. They then set the house on fire and fled to Canada before being arrested.

“That was a three-ring circus,” he said about the courtroom atmosphere. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Because so many members of the public wanted to see the trial, they were forced to line up early in order to be allowed inside.

“I would arrive at 8 a.m. and there would be a line from the elevator to the door to get in,” Benedict said. “They would close the courtroom for lunch and they would stand there and eat lunch in line.”

Bickerstaff, now 44, was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2010.

Benedict also remembered the case of Christopher Stone, then 22, who pleaded guilty to killing his mother’s boyfriend and injuring his mother in 1989 while holding them hostage in their Lodi home. He then led authorities “all over creation” through three counties and got into a shootout with Wayne County sheriff’s deputies.

“He looked like Superman with his X-Ray eyes,” Benedict said about Stone in court.

Stone, who spent several years in mental hospitals after he pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges, was sentenced to life in prison.

Benedict also transcribed the proceedings for the trial of teenager Audrey Iacona, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of her newborn son in her Granger Township home in 1997.

While he has mostly transcribed criminal and civil proceedings, he said he also had to transcribe some divorce and custody hearings in the days before the county had a domestic relations judge.

Some of the most tedious trials he worked on were during the county’s house-building boom in the 1970s and early 1980s when homeowners were suing construction contractors for breaches of contract.

“It got to the point where they were talking about how many nails they put on the drywall,” Benedict said.

Last year was one of the most difficult for him because there were so many trials, including six for the defendants who were convicted of participating in a marijuana-growing operation in the Brunswick area.

Each trial took almost two weeks to complete and all the accused were convicted.

“I’m going to be typing that stuff for awhile,” Benedict said.

During trials, he said jurors often asked him about his job and how he could stand typing everything that was said.

“You have to be here, too,” Benedict told them.

Kimbler said he would miss having Benedict’s expertise and excellent memory of old cases.

“He knows a lot about the county and what juries are like,” he said. “I would often tell people to ask Dave about what he thinks about how a jury would decide on something.”

The court reporter has one of the most important jobs at the courthouse because the court would not be able to function without correct transcripts of proceedings, Kimbler said.

A resident of Medina, Benedict and his wife Pam have two children, Lisa and Bob.

Wood may be reached at 330-721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.