July 22, 2014

Medina
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Two years later, still no justice in Frank Munz murder

When Tim and Char Scroggins hired their neighbor’s son in 2009, they were looking for help with odd jobs around their Chatham Township property on Richman Road.

Since he was a neighbor, they never thought to check his background.

Steven Cepec

“He was a trusted person,” Char Scroggins said. “I had no idea when he was here he was on parole. But then I had no reason to check.”

The son, Steven A. Cepec, 44, faces four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated robbery in the 2010 slaying of 73-year-old Frank Munz, a Chatham Township historian. If convicted, Cepec could receive the death penalty, the first in Medina County in decades.

Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of Munz’s death, and Cepec’s case is still moving through the court system.

Trial delays

Cepec was indicted on murder charges in November 2010, five months after Munz’s death.

Char Scroggins said she was stunned when she heard about Munz, who lived down the road.

“I didn’t know him to be a violent person,” Scroggins said of Cepec. “I found it so hard to believe that he snapped like that.
When I look back on all of this, I was never afraid of Steve. I never had any fear of him.”

Cepec pleaded not guilty in December 2010 to all counts and a few days later his attorneys, Kerry O’Brien, of Akron, and Edmond Bowers, of Medina, filed a motion to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, according to court records.

Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler ordered a test to determine whether Cepec was competent to stand trial, and Cepec’s attorneys requested a second competency test, which has yet to be completed, county Prosecutor Dean Holman said.

Holman said he attributes the delay in trying the case to the competency evaluation process.

“In this kind of case, everyone in the system has to be careful in what is being done and make sure all the ‘i’s’ are dotted and ‘t’s’ crossed, and that’s what’s being done here,” he said.

O’Brien did not immediately respond to interview requests, and his co-counsel, Russell Buzzelli, declined to comment. Bowers has since withdrawn from the case.

“It’s not that the court or anyone in the system isn’t doing their jobs, it’s just a complicated matter,” Holman said.

Life of crime

Cepec has a long history with the state’s prison system.

He first was incarcerated in 1988 on charges of breaking and entering, theft and receiving stolen property in Medina County, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records. Since then, he’s been in and out of prison on charges of breaking and entering, assault and burglary.

When he worked for the Scrogginses from September to December 2009, he was on parole.

“He seemed like a kid who just never had a chance,” Char Scroggins said. “My husband and I try very hard to help people.”

She said Cepec “wanted to try to make something of himself, but he just couldn’t stay away from the wrong people. That was the impression I got from him.”

After a few months, Cepec stopped showing up to work on time and was less dependable, she said.

“I finally got to the point where I said, ‘I can’t deal with this anymore,’ and we finally let him go,” Char Scroggins said.

A month later, Cepec was incarcerated but released on parole within the same month, according to Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records.

In 2010, The Gazette obtained emails between several Department of Rehabilitation and Correction employees through public information requests.

They show Cepec was detained on a parole violation in early May 2010. He was released to a halfway house on May 28 based on a sanction recommendation from a parole hearing officer. Cepec complained of medical problems and left the halfway house hours after arriving, according to the emails.

He did not receive permission from corrections officers to leave. He went to an area hospital, was released that night and never returned to the halfway house, the emails show.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released a “be on the lookout” notice to police agencies the next day.

According to the emails, a warrant for his arrest was approved on June 2, 2010, the day before Munz was killed.

911 call

At about 2:30 p.m. June 3, 2010, a sheriff’s sergeant was in the area of Munz’s home at 5394 Richman Road when a 911 call came in from Munz’s nephew, Paul.

Paul Munz had locked himself in a back bedroom of the house after hearing an argument between his uncle and a neighbor identified as Cepec, according to the 911 call.

Paul Munz said he heard his uncle shouting and struggling with Cepec, and he told the dispatcher Cepec had been “talking to his uncle” and may have borrowed money from Munz two days beforehand, according to the call.

While in the locked bedroom, Paul Munz said he heard someone trying to get in.

“I thought he was going to break (the door) down, but he walked off,” Paul Munz told the dispatcher.

When the sergeant arrived, he saw a man fleeing the residence, and after a brief chase through the woods behind the house, authorities apprehended Cepec.

Munz’s body was found in his home and County Coroner Neil Grabenstetter has said Munz died from two possible causes: “injuries from a blunt instrument to the back of his head” and there was “evidence of strangulation.”

Cepec was held in the Medina County Jail for several days after Munz’s death, and during that time he ingested bolts from his jail cell and part of a soap dispenser, Sheriff Neil Hassinger said at the time.

He was taken into custody by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for a parole violation and is being held in the Warren Correctional Institute in Lebanon.

Frank Munz

Frank Munz moved from Lakewood to Chatham Township in 1971 to look after his parents and his nephew, Paul. He immersed himself in the township and was co-founder of the Chatham Historical Society in 1994, society Chairperson Joyce Siman said.

“For someone not born in Chatham, he just took to Chatham. Or maybe Chatham took to him,” she said. “We always laughed and would call him our cousin.”

Munz would spend hours at the Medina Library looking through old newspaper articles and copying any information that related to Chatham Township, she said.

“Any kind of information that would come across our desk here, he would do all the research because he just loved digging out information,” Siman said. “That was something he loved to do, and he did a wonderful job of it.”

Before Munz died, the society obtained the old Chatham Town Hall at the corner of state Routes 162 and 83. Munz was working with the historical society to move the township hall up the road to sit behind the Chatham Township Community Center at 6306 Avon Lake Road. The building finally was moved in December 2010, six months after his death.

Munz also served on the township’s Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals as well as the Medina County Planning Commission.

“He was great on the zoning board,” Siman said. If there were any zoning issue in the township, everybody would go to him.”

Cepec is scheduled to go on trial in the death of Munz at 9 a.m. Oct.15, his sixth trial date.

When he does go on trial, Char Scroggins said she “will be sitting there listening every single day.”

“It’s just that I don’t think he’ll ever go to trial.”

Contact Michelle Sprehe at (330) 721-4048 or msprehe@medina-gazette.com.