September 3, 2014

Medina
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Defendant in capital murder trial questions judge

MEDINA — The prosecutor and defense attorneys in Steven Cepec’s capital murder trial can’t talk to reporters about a possible plea bargain.

The judge ordered them not to.

But that doesn’t mean Cepec couldn’t talk to the judge.

“Judge, if I pleaded guilty to murder, would you be the one sentencing me?” Cepec asked county Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler on Friday afternoon after the jury was dismissed from the courtroom.

“If you were convicted of murder and not aggravated murder, yes,” Kimbler responded.

Kimbler issued a gag order Tuesday — the day after the judge rejected 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.

In the days following his arrest, sheriff deputies said Cepec admitted at least five times to killing Munz.

After the ruling upholding the confessions was announced, a Gazette reporter asked county Prosecutor Dean Holman about the possibility of a plea bargain that would drop the death penalty in return for a guilty plea. Holman deferred to Kimbler, who issued the gag order.

Opening statements in the trial are expected Monday after the 12 jurors and four alternates were impaneled Friday.

Cepec was arrested by officers responding to a 911 call from Munz’s nephew, Paul Munz, who was in a locked room in Munz’s 5394 Richman Road home. The nephew said Cepec and his uncle were arguing, possibly about money Cepec borrowed two days earlier.

Police found Munz’s body inside and arrested Cepec after a short chase through woods.

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

Cepec, who has a long history of crime, was on parole at the time of the killing. He was sent to Warren Correctional Institute in Lebanon to await trial.

Part of the reason the trial has taken so long is that tests were required to decide whether Cepec, who ingested bolts from his jail cell and part of a soap dispenser, was competent to stand trial.

Kimbler has ruled him competent.

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