October 30, 2014

Medina
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Jury selection begins in case against Dennis Auerswald

MEDINA — About 50 witnesses are expected to be called to the stand during the trial of Dennis Auerswald, who is accused of poisoning his wife with antifreeze in 2009.

Auerswald, 60, of Medina, is charged with murder, aggravated murder and forgery. He pleaded not guilty in July and jury selection in his trial before Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier started Monday.

Dennis Auerswald, 60, far right, and his lawyers Robert Campbell, left, and Kenneth Staiduhar, center, watch Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier interview potential jurors Monday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MARIA KACIK KULA)

Dennis Auerswald, 60, far right, and his lawyers Robert Campbell, left, and Kenneth Staiduhar, center, watch Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier interview potential jurors Monday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MARIA KACIK KULA)

Auerswald told doctors at Medina Hospital on Feb. 9, 2009, he found his 60-year-old wife, Maureen, unresponsive in their Dover Drive home with a bottle of alcohol next to her. She died the next day.

Doctors reportedly were suspicious of Auerswald’s story and notified Medina police, who investigated the case for more than a year.

The Cuyahoga County coroner’s office, which performed the autopsy on Maureen Auerswald, ruled her death was caused by acute intoxication by ethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze. The office also said the death was caused by violence of undetermined origin.

Attorney Robert Campbell, who is representing Auerswald, said prosecutors have to prove his client poisoned his wife with antifreeze.

“I don’t think there’s any dispute that she died because she drank antifreeze,” he said Monday, adding there’s an “absolute lack of evidence” that links Dennis Auerswald with the antifreeze.

“They’ve got nothing but speculation,” he said.

Campbell said Auerswald is looking forward to the trial.

“He’s confident he’s going to be acquitted,” he said.

Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said he’s confident in the prosecution’s case.

“We’ll let the evidence do the talking in the courtroom,” he said.

Holman said he expects to call 50 witnesses, including friends of Maureen Auerswald, doctors, hospital personnel, Medina Police Department staff and representatives from life insurance companies.

Campbell wouldn’t say who he plans to call, but noted most of them likely would be called by prosecutors first.

The trial is expected to take several weeks. Auerswald is free on his own recognizance. He was being held in the Medina County Jail on $1 million bond until December, when prosecutors asked for his bond to be reduced so they did not violate speedy trial rules.

The murder trial isn’t the only court case in which Auerswald is involved.

In March 2007, a $100,000 life insurance policy was taken out in Maureen Auerswald’s name, with Dennis Auerswald as the only beneficiary. The American General Life Insurance Co. filed a civil suit in July, asking whether it could deposit the money with the Medina County Clerk of Courts until the murder trial is finished.

The company said the ongoing nature of the case meant conflicting death benefits claims.

Auerswald replied to the complaint in October and asked that it be dismissed or that the money be placed in an interest-accruing account. He also filed a counterclaim against AGL, saying it breached its contract by not paying the benefits.

The case is pending.

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