November 24, 2014

Medina
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Judge: Steven Cepec multiple confessions admissible in trial

MEDINA — A judge ruled Monday that Steven Cepec’s multiple confessions that he killed a 73-year-old Chatham Township man are admissible at his capital murder trial.

Cepec, 43, is accused of the June 3, 2010, slaying of Frank Munz, of 5394 Richman Road. He faces four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated robbery and could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Steven Cepec

Cepec’s attorneys, Kerry O’Brien and Russ Buzzelli, and his former attorney, Edmond Bowers, filed motions asking Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler to throw out the confessions, arguing they were obtained without Cepec waiving his Miranda rights and that he was under police coercion.

County Prosecutor Dean Holman countered last month, stating that Cepec confessed to law enforcement officers five times in the days following his arrest.

He said the confessions came of his own volition outside of interrogation, so Miranda warnings informing him of his right to talk to an attorney and that anything he said could be used against him in court weren’t required.

Kimbler rejected the defense arguments Monday, saying that Cepec had his Miranda rights read to him almost every time he was interrogated.

“The circumstances surrounding these statements show that Mr. Cepec was aware of his rights and was voluntarily waiving them,” Kimbler wrote in his ruling.

The judge also said the defense attorneys failed to show how police coerced their client.

“These statements were not made under circumstances that show any coercion,” Kimbler wrote. “Therefore, they were not obtained by the state in violation of Mr. Cepec’s constitutional rights.”

Kimbler’s ruling clears the way for the long-delayed trial to begin.

Cepec’s case has been delayed several times, for tests to decide whether he is competent to stand trial and because of changes in defense attorneys.

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

After pleading not guilty in December 2010, Cepec’s attorneys filed a motion to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity a few days later.

Kimbler has ruled him competent to stand trial.

Jury selection, which is expected to take several days to complete, began Monday and will continue today.

Most potential jurors were questioned about what they thought about the death penalty and whether they would be able to follow the law and recommend it as a punishment if they found Cepec guilty.

Kimbler said the attorneys expected to have 40 to 50 people interviewed by Friday, when they will select 12 jurors and four alternates.

Cepec was arrested June 3, 2010, after Munz’s nephew, Paul Munz, called 911 from a locked bedroom in his uncle’s home.

The nephew told the dispatcher he could hear Munz and a man he identified as Cepec struggling in the next room — possibly over money Cepec may have borrowed from Munz two days earlier.

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.

Cepec was arrested after a brief chase through the woods behind Munz’s home.

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

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.

Cepec also has been arrested three other times for parole violations.

He was taken in on a parole violation in early May 2010 and released May 28, 2010, less than a week before Munz’s death.

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