July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Former soldier to stand trial

Allison Wood | The Gazette

MEDINA — More than three years after 19-year-old David Heinricht was found dead in his Brunswick apartment, the former soldier accused of killing him will finally stand trial Monday.

The case has taken many turns since Shaun Cleland’s arrest at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport a few hours after Heinricht’s body was found on Oct. 2, 2005. Cleland, now 28, flew from his Army base in Hawaii to Cleveland earlier that day, and then allegedly strangled Heinricht that night at around 11.

Cleland, who allegedly broke into the apartment, reportedly staged the killing to make it look as if Heinricht hanged himself, which included knotting a rope around his neck and a suicide note.

Heinricht was the live-in boyfriend of Cleland’s estranged wife, Christina, who discovered the body on a couch.

In 2006, Cleland pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and two other counts and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison by Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler. Before sentencing, Kimbler rejected Cleland’s request to change his pleas to not guilty.

Records show Cleland confessed to the murder several times, but he told Kimbler in court the true killer threatened to harm his family if he did not plead guilty to the charges.

However, the 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron ruled last year the pleas must be thrown out because the court failed to explain Cleland would be placed on post-release control if he ever got out of prison.

This means the process had to begin all over again as if Cleland never pleaded guilty.

Cleland is charged with seven counts altogether, including aggravated murder, murder and first-degree felony counts of kidnapping and aggravated burglary, since he allegedly entered Heinricht’s Clearbrook Drive apartment by scaling up the roof.

A Medina County native, Cleland lived in the same apartment complex with Christina Cleland before being deployed with the Army and previously the Ohio National Guard.

Cleland had been imprisoned at Mansfield Correctional Institution, but is now in the Medina County Jail awaiting trial.

His trial previously was set to begin April 20, but was continued after the defense filed a motion to suppress statements Cleland made confessing to the crimes to Brunswick police after his arrest. A police officer also allegedly heard Cleland tell his father during a later phone conversation that he “killed a man.”

Contact Allison Wood at (330) 721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.