October 23, 2014

Medina
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Lips sealed about any plea deal in Steven Cepec trial

MEDINA — Are prosecutors and defense attorneys trying to negotiate a plea bargain in Steven Cepec’s capital murder trial?

They can’t say.

Steven Cepec

Judge James L. Kimbler issued a gag order Tuesday after a Gazette reporter asked county Prosecutor Dean Holman about the possibility of a plea bargain.

A plea bargain that would eliminate death as a penalty in exchange for a guilty plea became more likely following Kimbler’s rejection Monday of defense motions seeking to throw out Cepec’s multiple confessions that he killed 73-year-old Frank Munz, of Chatham Township, on June 3, 2010.

Opening statements in the trial are expected as early as Friday. Jury selection began Monday.

Kimbler said the attorneys expect to have 40 to 50 potential jurors questioned by Friday, when the prosecution and defense will select 12 jurors and four alternates.

According to court documents, Cepec confessed to the slaying at least five times in the days after his arrest.

The prosecution said sheriff’s Deputy Marie Kriz heard Cepec on June 4 or 5 say he killed Munz and that he deserved the death penalty for his actions.

Cepec, 43, was arrested the day of the slaying after a brief chase through the woods behind Munz’s home. Munz’s nephew, Paul Munz, had called 911 and reported hearing his uncle and a man he identified as Cepec struggling in the next room — possibly over money Cepec may have borrowed from Munz two days earlier.

County Coroner Dr. Neil Grabenstetter said Munz died of a blow to the back of his head and strangulation.

Cepec, who has a long criminal record of assault and burglary, was awaiting trial at a state prison, the Warren Correctional Institute in Lebanon, where he was sent as a parole violator.

The trial has been delayed several times for tests to decide whether Cepec, who ingested bolts from his jail cell and part of a soap dispenser, is competent to stand trial and because of changes in defense attorneys.

Kimbler has ruled him competent to stand trial.

More than 30 motions for suppression, instruction and disclosure have been filed so far by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

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