June 27, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Steven Cepec’s defense doesn’t call witnesses

MEDINA — Steven Cepec’s attorneys in his capital murder trial rested their defense Wednesday without calling witnesses or presenting any evidence.

The trial is expected to go to the jury after closing arguments this morning.

Steven Cepec

Cepec is accused of beating 73-year-old Frank Munz with the claw end of a hammer and strangling him with a lamp cord during a home invasion June 3, 2010. Cepec was on the run at the time after failing to return to a halfway house on May 28 — the same day he was released from prison.

If the jury convicts Cepec of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, the trial will enter a penalty phase to determine whether Cepec is sentenced to life in prison or death.

Cepec, who was arrested near Munz’s Chatham Township home by Medina County sheriff’s deputies, at first denied involvement. The next day, though, he confessed that he killed Munz.

Before the prosecution rested its case Wednesday, the jury heard from former Detective Tadd Davis, who said Cepec told him on June 9 that he was not alone when he killed Munz.

“Michelle Palmer was there,” Cepec said, referring to his girlfriend who he said was the one who suggested robbing Munz. “She made the first blow.”

Davis said he didn’t buy it, but still looked into the possible lead.

He said Palmer was in Cleveland the day Munz was killed and that her family could vouch for her.

“There was no evidence linking her to being at the Munz home on June 3, or even that she had come down from Cleveland,” Davis told the jury. “Michelle Palmer was quickly ruled out as a suspect.”

The defense attorneys countered, pointing to unidentified female DNA found at the scene and on a bloody shirt Cepec admitted to changing out of. They also said it was possible she could have left through two sliding glass doors at the home, which Davis and other witnesses said were not checked for evidence.

Witnesses have testified that DNA could last for decades under the right circumstances and that women used to live in the home.

Davis said Palmer’s DNA and fingerprints weren’t taken by detectives because they were so sure she wasn’t involved.

Palmer did not testify at the trial.

The jury has watched several hours of videos showing Cepec’s interrogations. In a video played Tuesday, he described the attack and said he didn’t mean to kill Munz.

“I didn’t mean to hit him with the claw. I meant to hit him with the blunt side. I just wanted to knock him out,” he said.

Cepec first was incarcerated in 1988 on charges of breaking and entering, theft and receiving stolen property in Medina County, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records.

Since then, he’s been in and out of prison on charges of breaking and entering, assault and burglary.

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.