MEDINA — The jury in the Frank Munz murder case recommended the death penalty Thursday for his killer, 43-year-old Steven Cepec.
County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler said he will consider the jury’s recommendation in the coming weeks.
If Kimbler sentences Cepec to death, he would become the only Medina County resident on Ohio’s death row. The judge also could sentence Cepec to life in prison without parole or with parole eligibility at 25 or 30 years.
Kimbler said that he expects to rule no later than April 25.
Cepec was found guilty Feb. 22 of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery.
Authorities said Cepec beat Munz, 73, to death with the clawend of a hammer and strangled the Chatham Township historian with a lamp cord during a home invasion on June 3, 2010 — six days after the Ohio Parole Board released Cepec from prison.
Attorneys for both sides were unable to comment on the jury’s decision Thursday because of Kimbler’s Feb. 4 gag order.
Jurors, though, were allowed to comment.
“We all had a very hard time playing God,” said one juror, a 40-year-old Granger Township woman.
She said she and the other jurors thought they made the right decision, but it was hard juggling their beliefs and the law.
“We’re taught from a young age that God makes the decisions about people’s lives,” she said. “This time, it was us.”
The jurors deliberated a little more than eight hours before reaching their decision.
On June 3, 2010, Cepec was arrested less than an hour after he killed Munz. He at first denied he killed him but confessed within 24 hours, sheriff’s deputies testified during his trial.
Deputies said Cepec confessed at least four more times. They said he told them he meant to rob Munz, not kill him, and that he should be given the death penalty for his actions.
Cepec changed his mind Wednesday, though, when he begged the jury to show mercy.
“It haunts me, over and over,” Cepec told the jury. “I get nightmares of this when I sleep. I see his face.”
Ohio law allows defendants in death-penalty cases to address the jury directly.
Cepec said he killed Munz because he panicked when Munz fought back during the robbery and burglary.
Testimony showed that Cepec intended to use the money he took from Munz to purchase drugs.
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.
Between then and the murder, he was in and out of prison on charges of breaking and entering, assault and burglary.
On Wednesday during closing arguments, county Prosecutor Dean Holman told jurors that he knew they would make the right decision.
“It’s been two years, nine months and three days since Frank Munz’s murder,” Holman said. “It’s judgment day for Steve Cepec.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.