MEDINA — A parole officer said Tuesday that convicted murderer Steven Cepec refused to get help for mental health problems a year before the slaying of 73-year-old Frank Munz.
Medina County parole officer W. Jeff Taraschke told a jury that Cepec didn’t think he had a substance abuse problem or mental health issues, which he was diagnosed with after Munz’s murder in Chatham Township.
On Feb. 22, a jury convicted Cepec, 43, of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. He killed Munz by beating him with the claw-end of a hammer and strangling him with a lamp cord during a home invasion June 3, 2010, six days after the Ohio Parole Board released him from prison.
Monday began the penalty phase of Cepec’s trial. The jury will determine whether to recommend a death sentence for Cepec, life in prison without parole or parole eligibility after 25 to 30 years.
The final decision will be up to Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler.
On Tuesday, Taraschke testified not only did Cepec refuse help for his mental illness, he also lied to him and broke the terms of his parole.
“He would say he couldn’t look for a job because he didn’t have transportation, but a GPS bracelet showed he was all over the place,” Taraschke said.
He said Cepec managed to get a job, but only worked there six hours a week. When he wasn’t working, Taraschke said Cepec would get into fights, drink alcohol and use drugs regularly.
Eventually, he said Cepec’s parole violations resulted in arrests.
Taraschke said Cepec never spent much time in jail, though.
“I learned that he thought if he injured himself while in custody, the state wouldn’t want to pay for his medical treatment and would release him from jail, because we had done that twice before,” Taraschke said.
Taraschke said Cepec once swallowed part of a razor blade to get out of jail.
The jury heard from several witnesses during Cepec’s February trial that he spent time in a hospital after Munz’s slaying because he swallowed bolts from his jail cell and part of a soap dispenser.
“He’s highly, highly manipulative,” Taraschke said of Cepec.
Taraschke’s testimony echoed that of several psychologists, who said Cepec acted that way because of antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and attention deficit disorder.
Those mental disorders make him unstable, impulsive, manipulative and sociopathic, they said.
Still, many said they didn’t think Cepec intended to kill Munz that day.
“He gave me lots of reasons to think he was highly risky, but it is not my belief that he would go somewhere with the intent to kill someone,” Taraschke said.
The defense and prosecution rested their cases Tuesday.
Cepec is expected to testify at 9 a.m. today, followed by closing arguments from both sides.
Kimbler said he expects to hand the case over to the jury for deliberation today.
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.