Convicted murderer Steven Cepec was sentenced to death Thursday for killing a 73-year-old Chatham Township man during a home invasion almost three years ago.
Cepec, 44, is the first person to be sentenced to death in Medina County in 60 years and will be the only Medina County resident on Ohio’s death row.
A jury found Cepec guilty of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery in February, and in March recommended he receive the death penalty.
Cepec beat Frank Munz to death with the claw-end of a hammer and strangled him with a lamp cord in Munz’s Richman Road home June 3, 2010.
During his trial, Cepec said he intended to rob Munz for drug money but ended up killing him when Munz fought back.
“It was a sad, senseless crime. A needless crime,” county Prosecutor Dean Holman said. “He richly deserves his sentence.”
Cepec’s death sentence was a first for Holman and Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler.
Kimbler could have chosen to sentence Cepec to life in prison without parole or with parole eligibility after 25 or 30 years.
“Judge Kimbler gave a very fair trial, and my client feels the same way,” Kerry O’Brien, Cepec’s attorney, said.
He declined to comment further.
Cepec’s death by lethal injection is scheduled for June 3, 2014, exactly four years after Munz’s death.
However, Cepec’s case immediately was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court and Holman said it could take as many as 20 years before Cepec would be put to death.
Family members of Munz and Cepec attended Thursday’s sentencing, and all were given the chance to speak.
Munz’s nephew, Paul Munz, declined to talk. Paul Munz was present the day his uncle was killed and was the one who alerted police that day.
When it was his turn to speak, Cepec told the judge: “I can’t make excuses for what I did. I was wrong — very wrong — and I’m so very sorry.”
Shaun Cepec, his brother, showed the court an airplane made of popsicle sticks Cepec sent him from prison.
“Stevie sent this to me to make me feel better. That’s the kind of person he is,” he said. “I read somewhere that the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst.
That’s not Stevie.”
He asked the judge to give Cepec a life sentence instead, so he could visit his brother and send him letters.
Cepec’s uncle, Rick Cepec, blamed his nephew’s actions on drugs.
“If the drugs weren’t ever in his life, this never would have happened,” he said. “There’s nothing I can say to make it better, but I ask that you spare him.”
His stepmother, Linda Cepec, also pleaded for leniency.
“I never saw evil in him,” she said. “Please don’t give him death.”
Cepec was arrested within an hour after he killed Munz. Sheriff’s deputies caught Cepec after a chase through woods near Munz’s house, 5394 Richman Road.
He at first denied killing Munz, saying he found Munz dead.
Within 24 hours, though, he confessed to sheriff’s detectives.
His case took so long to reach trial because of competency tests to see whether Cepec was fit to stand trial and changes in attorneys.
The trial began Feb. 4, two years and eight months after Munz’s murder. The jury found Cepec guilty 2½ weeks later.
The penalty phase of the trial started March 4, during which the jury weighed “aggravating circumstances,” including Cepec being on parole and committing murder and other crimes simultaneously, and “mitigating factors,” such as Cepec’s mental disorders and deprived childhood.
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.
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.