December 22, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
30°F
 

Confession allowed at trial of Steven Cepec?

MEDINA — A Chatham Township parole violator who’s been awaiting a capital murder trial for more than two years confessed to the slaying just days after his 2010 arrest, according to court documents.

Whether the confession of Steven Cepec is allowed as evidence at his trial, scheduled for Feb. 4, is up in the air.

Steven Cepec

According to a 14-page brief filed last week by county Prosecutor Dean Holman, Cepec confessed to officers at least five times shortly after his June 3, 2010, arrest that he killed Frank Munz, a 73-year-old Chatham Township historian.

One of those times was to Deputy Marie Kriz.

“While at a hospital on June 4th or 5th in 2010, Deputy Kriz heard Cepec make statements that he killed the victim and deserved the death penalty,” Holman wrote in his motion.

Cepec’s defense attorney, Kerry O’Brien, and former attorney, Edmond Bowers, said police violated Cepec’s constitutional rights by coercing him into confessing.

O’Brien and Bowers filed a motion for suppression on March 29, 2011, and on Sept. 4, 2012, O’Brien filed another one with attorney Russ Buzzelli. Both motions requested Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler throw out Cepec’s confessions.

The defense attorneys argued Holman failed to prove Cepec “knowingly and intelligently” waived his Miranda rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

Kimbler heard arguments from both sides Friday but didn’t say when he would rule on the motion.

Cepec pleaded not guilty in December 2010, and his attorneys filed a motion to adjust his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity a few days later.

If Cepec is convicted, he could face the death penalty — the first in Medina County in decades.

Holman’s argument

In his Jan. 8 brief, Holman said Miranda warnings only apply to interrogations.

“Cepec volunteered statements without any kind of interrogation,” Holman wrote. “His statements are not the product of custodial interrogation and are therefore admissible as long as they are voluntary.”

Even if Cepec confessed during interrogations, Holman said Cepec was fully aware of his Miranda rights.

Holman said deputies read Cepec his rights twice before arriving at the Sheriff’s Office and a third time before he was interrogated.

“Once advised of his right to remain silent and his right to consult with an attorney, Cepec voluntarily made statements to investigators over the course of several hours,” Holman said.

The day following his arrest, Cepec asked to speak with Detective Tadd Davis, Holman said. Davis read Cepec his rights, which Cepec waived and then confessed to both invading Munz’s home and killing the man.

Holman said Cepec also told Deputy Steve Clark that he knew what he did was wrong and that he deserved to die. In another exchange, Cepec asked Deputy Chris Faulkenstein to research whether suspects could volunteer for the death penalty.

Holman said Deputy Denise Kroger also recorded a confession by Cepec during transport. She later deleted the recording because she was told he already had confessed.

Two years and counting

Cepec’s case has been delayed for tests to decide whether he is competent to stand trial.

Cepec was arrested after a 911 call June 3, 2010, when Munz’s nephew, Paul Munz, called police from a locked bedroom in Munz’s home at 5394 Richman Road.

Paul told the dispatcher he could hear Munz and a man he identified as Cepec struggling in the next room, and that Cepec may have borrowed money from Munz two days earlier, according to the call.

When a sergeant arrived at the home, he saw a man fleeing. After a chase, police arrested a blood-soaked Cepec, who was on parole and had been in and out of prison for breaking and entering, theft, receiving stolen property, assault and burglary.

Munz’s body was found inside. County Coroner Neil Grabenstetter said Munz died from a blow to the back of his head and from strangulation.

While Cepec was at the Medina County Jail, he ingested bolts from his jail cell and part of a soap dispenser, former Sheriff Neil Hassinger said.

Kimbler ruled him competent to stand trial.

Cepec is awaiting trial at a state prison, the Warren Correctional Institute in Lebanon, where he was sent because he was a parole violator.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.