October 21, 2014

Medina
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Witnesses place Steven Cepec near crime scene

MEDINA — Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman called a parade of witnesses to the stand Wednesday to place Steven Cepec back in Chatham Township the day Frank Munz was killed.

Cepec is on trial in Medina County Common Pleas Court this week, charged with aggravated murder in the slaying of the 73-year-old Chatham Township historian during a June 3, 2010, home invasion.

Steven Cepec

If convicted, Cepec could face the death penalty.

At the time of the killing, Cepec was wanted for violating parole when he failed to return to an Akron halfway house May 28 — the same day he was released from prison.

In testimony Wednesday, the jury was told Cepec spent the night before the killing in Cleveland at the home of a cousin of his girlfriend.

Cepec and his girlfriend, who lived in Chatham Township about a quarter-mile from Munz’s home, spent several days at his cousin’s house.

The cousin’s husband, Duane Morris, testified Wednesday that he told Cepec to leave June 2.

“I worked third shift, but I asked Steve not to stay the night,” Morris said. “There are no guys allowed to stay at my house while I’m not home.”

When Morris returned from work the next morning, Cepec was still there.

Morris told the jury that Cepec told him he couldn’t find a ride back to Medina County.

“Then he said he was going to leave anyway because he was a runaway from a halfway house,” Morris said. “I thought, ‘If there’s a warrant out for his arrest, I don’t want him at my house.’ That’s harboring a criminal.”

Morris said he drove Cepec and his girlfriend, Michelle Palmer, to the home of Palmer’s sister in Cleveland.

The sister, Renee Palmer, testified that Morris pulled up to her house, let Cepec out of the car and then drove away.

Renee Palmer said Cepec asked for a ride to Medina County. Palmer and her live-in boyfriend, Thomas Bolon, told the jury that they drove Cepec to Garver Road in Chatham Township.

Palmer and Bolon said they dropped Cepec off around noon and saw him enter a barn, owned by the Palmer sisters’ father, about a quarter-mile from Munz’s home at 5394 Richman Road.

Two other witnesses, Sarah Syverson and Brandon Arthur, testified they saw Cepec at the barn about 1:30 p.m.

Syverson said she and Arthur were acquaintances of Cepec, who had stayed in the barn for several days after leaving the Akron halfway house and had driven him and his girlfriend to Cleveland on June 1, 2010.

They told the jury that Cepec asked them for a ride to Medina, saying he wanted to get or use food stamps there. They testified they told him they didn’t have the gas for the trip and drove away.

Renee Palmer, Bolon and Arthur all said Cepec may have used drugs the day of the killing.

Earlier in the trial, the jury heard testimony from sheriff’s deputies who responded to a 911 call at 2:37 p.m. from Frank Munz’s adult nephew, Paul Munz. The nephew said he heard Cepec and his uncle struggling in another room and locked himself in his bedroom.

Munz’s body was found in the home and Cepec was arrested after a brief chase through a wooded area.

On Wednesday, former sheriff’s deputy Marie Kriz told the jury that she heard Cepec confess.

“He said he was sorry he did it and that he killed Mr. Munz,” Kriz said. “And then he said he deserved to die for it.”

She said she heard him say the same thing the next day, too.

Another deputy, Chris Falkenstein, testified he was working on his laptop computer three days after the killing, keeping watch on Cepec, who was being treated at a hospital after ingesting bolts from his jail cell and parts of a soap dispenser.

“He asked me if I could look up whether he could volunteer for the death penalty,” Falkenstein told the jury. “He said he wasn’t going to do anything unless he could get the death penalty.”

Cepec’s attorneys, Russell Buzzelli and Kerry O’Brien, objected to testimony about the confessions, but where overruled by Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler.

The defense attorneys had filed motions to block the jury from hearing Cepec’s confessions. Kimbler denied their motions Feb. 4.

The trial is scheduled to continue 1:15 p.m. today.

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