July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Medina County sees 1st death penalty case in several years

MEDINA — The county is expected to try its first death penalty case in several years now that Steven Cepec has been charged in the June slaying of Chatham Township resident Frank Munz.

County Prosecutor Dean Holman said he’s prosecuted several death penalty cases since he was first elected in 1989.

“It’s a complicated, arduous process,” he said, noting it entails more regulations involving jury selection, instructions to the jury and appeals issues.

He said all the death penalty cases he’s seen so far have resulted in negotiated pleas.

One such plea involved Marcus D. Farmer, who strangled his ex-wife, Alice McDonald, in Medina in November 2004. He originally pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Jan. 21, 2005.

The previous day, Dan G. Johnson also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison for killing his girlfriend’s estranged husband, Mickey Mishne, in Montville Township. He also was facing the death penalty.

Another case involved a Miami University student from Brunswick.

A three-judge panel sentenced the teenager to death in 1978. Michael Swihart was 18 in 1977 when he killed his mother, father and two brothers at their home and then burned it to the ground.

The 9th District Court of Appeals reduced his sentence to life in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court found Ohio’s death penalty unconstitutional.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction lists all the executions since 1897 on its website.

The only Medina County name that appears there is Max Amerman, who was convicted of murder for his role in the 1950 shooting of his mistress’ husband and Montville Township farmer Harold Mast.

Amerman concocted a plan with his 17-year-old farmhand, Jerry Killinger, in which the boy would shoot Mast while Amerman was away at a New York-Philadelphia World Series Game.

Amerman and Killinger were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Killinger’s sentence was commuted just hours before he was scheduled to die.

Amerman, 28, was executed on Nov. 15, 1951. Killinger was paroled in 1971.

If Cepec is convicted and sentenced to death, it would be the first sentence of its kind in Medina County in decades.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.