July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Jury watches Steven Cepec’s interrogation video

MEDINA — Sheriff’s Detective Samo Mernik sat across from Steven Cepec in an interrogation room on June 3, 2010, the same day Frank Munz was killed.

“Right now, there’s probably a family crying in a morgue somewhere,” Mernik said. “And I have to tell them, ‘We think Steve did it, but he won’t come clean. He wants to make this some long, drawn-out trial.’ ”

Steven Cepec

Two and a half years later, Cepec is on trial for Munz’s slaying, which sheriff’s deputies say Cepec confessed to the day after his interview with Mernik, and four more times the next week.

The jury has heard from dozens of witnesses so far this week, many of whom accuse Cepec of strangling and beating to death Munz, a 73-year-old Chatham Township historian, during a home invasion.

If Cepec is found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

His video interview with Mernik was played Thursday, the fourth day of testimony.

During the interview, Cepec told Mernik and former Detective Tadd Davis that he went to Munz’s house to use a phone and found Munz dead.

Witnesses have said Cepec knew Munz and had been to Munz’s home at 5394 Richman Road several times to borrow money and to use the phone.

In the interview, Cepec said he heard someone else in the house. Mernik and Davis told him there indeed was someone else home — Munz’s adult nephew, Paul Munz, who testified Tuesday that he called police after hearing Cepec’s voice and a struggle.

Cepec told them Paul Munz must have set him up.

The detectives countered that there was no blood on Paul Munz, and that he was on the phone with a dispatcher for a half-hour while police found, chased and arrested Cepec.

They said Cepec, on the other hand, had blood on his pants and shoes.

Cepec said he never touched Munz’s body and that he didn’t know it was police officers chasing him.

“I didn’t even know what the hell was going on,” Cepec told the detectives. “I just wanted to use the phone.”

Deputies had the home surrounded quickly, so the detectives said someone would have seen another person leave the house.

“You better come up with another story,” Davis told him.

“I’m telling you, that’s the way it happened,” Cepec said.

Mernik said he suspected that Cepec didn’t mean to kill Munz, and that it happened after Munz refused to lend him more money.

“You know what I think? I think Frank told you, ‘No more. No more money,’ ” and I think you lost control,” Mernik said.

Mernik and Davis also pressed Cepec about a tooth found in his pocket at the scene. At the time, they believed the tooth belonged to Munz. On Monday, sheriff’s Deputy Dave Porter testified that the tooth was not Munz’s.

Cepec stuck to his story until June 4, 2010, when Detective Todd Hicks said Cepec confessed to him.

“He said, ‘I did it. I deserve the death penalty,’ ” Hicks testified Tuesday. “I asked him, ‘Do you want to die?’ and all he said was, ‘Eye for an eye.’ ”
Deputies said Cepec confessed at least four other times, too.

Former sheriff’s Deputy Marie Kriz told the jury Wednesday that she heard Cepec confess on June 5, 2010, at a hospital, where he was being treated after ingesting bolts from his jail cell and part of a soap dispenser.

“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, also testified Wednesday that he was working on his laptop computer three days after the killing, keeping watch on Cepec at a hospital.

“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 were 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.

In the video, a detective told Cepec that law enforcement could use a chemical called luminol to test whether there was any blood under his fingernails. Cepec responded by asking for a lawyer.

“If you’re innocent, why do you need a lawyer?” Mernik asked.

Cepec’s attorneys renewed their request for suppression, saying the interview should have ended there because the detectives denied Cepec’s right to an attorney.

Kimbler again denied their request, explaining that Cepec had a right to have an attorney present for interrogations but not during testing.

The trial is scheduled to continue 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.