July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Munz murder trial: Nephew says he overheard deadly altercation

MEDINA — The day Frank Munz was killed, his adult nephew heard it happen.

“There were two loud thumps, and I heard my uncle yell,” Paul Munz testified. “Then I heard nothing.”

Steven Cepec, 43, left, consults one of his attorneys, Russell Buzzelli, during a break in Tuesday’s trial. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY NICK GLUNT)

Paul Munz told his story Tuesday, the second day of testimony in the trial of Steven Cepec, 43, a wanted parolee accused of beating and strangling to death the 73-year-old Chatham Township historian during a home invasion.

If Cepec is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Munz said Cepec was a friend of a friend, so he knew him since the 1990s and had him over to his 5394 Richman Road home — the same home that became a crime scene on June 3, 2010.

Munz said he never wanted to be friends with Cepec but didn’t elaborate.

On the day of the killing, Munz and his uncle were alone at the home where the two had lived since 1971, when Paul Munz’s mother died.

Munz said Cepec came over at least four times in the week leading up to his uncle’s death — once to use the phone and borrow money, another time with a woman Munz didn’t recognize, a third time demanding to see Munz’s uncle and finally on the day his uncle was killed.

Every time, Munz said he kept his distance from Cepec.

“Do you know what the relationship was between Frank and Steve?” county Prosecutor Dean Holman asked him.

“No,” Munz said. “I think Steve just asked him for favors.”

The day his uncle died, he said he heard Cepec and his uncle talking in the kitchen. Munz said he was in a hallway across the living room from the kitchen when he heard the struggle. He said he locked himself in his bedroom but didn’t immediately call police.

“Why didn’t you call 911 right away?” defense attorney Russell Buzzelli asked him.

“I wasn’t sure what was happening there,” he said.

He said he could hear someone walking down the hallway several times, and then the person dumped change into a bag in his uncle’s bedroom.

The nephew said he called police after he heard someone trying to turn his bedroom’s doorknob.

“Frank wouldn’t have just tried the door,” he testified. “He would have knocked first.”

According to testimony Monday, sheriff’s deputies saw Cepec come into the attached garage from the house and run into nearby woods. He was arrested in a soybean field.

Munz left the bedroom only when the dispatcher told him it was safe.

He said deputies escorted him out, and that’s when he saw his uncle’s body.

Cepec’s attorneys asked Munz whether he heard anyone else in the house and whether he was sure it was Cepec who tried his door. He said it’s possible there could have been more, but he only heard one person, and he was sure that person was Cepec.

Also testifying Tuesday was Mark Kollar, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Kollar guided the jury through more than 100 photos of the scene — many including blood spatter that he analyzed.

He said blood was found on the floor where Frank Munz was found, as well as the ceiling, cabinets, walls and furniture in the kitchen. Kollar told the jury he also found footprints in blood throughout the house and traces of blood on a sink in the bathroom.

Kollar said there were three bags near the front door to the home filled with coins, jewelry, weapons and bloody towels.

Holman told the jury during opening statements Monday that Cepec was preparing to leave with the bags when police arrived.

The prosecutor also said that in the days that followed Cepec’s arrest, he confessed to killing Munz at least five times to law enforcement officers, including sheriff’s Detective Todd Hicks, who took the stand Tuesday.

“He said, ‘I did it. I deserve the death penalty,’ ” Hicks said. “I asked him, ‘Do you want to die?’ and all he said was, ‘Eye for an eye.’ ”

Cepec’s attorneys filed a motion to block the jury from hearing his confessions, but Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler denied their motion.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.

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

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.