April 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
41°F

Life in prison or death for Steven Cepec?

Convicted murderer Steven Cepec will learn today whether he likely will spend the rest of his life in prison or be sent to death row.

Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler is scheduled to sentence Cepec at an 11 a.m. hearing.

Frank Munz, a 73-year-old Chatham Township historian, was honored at a vigil in July 2010, a month after he was killed during a home invasion. Steven Cepec, who was convicted of Munz's murder in February, will hear today whether he will likely spend the rest of his life behind prison bars or receive the death penalty. (GAZETTE FILE PHOTO)

A jury found Cepec guilty Feb. 22 of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery.

The jury recommended the death penalty March 7. But under Ohio law, Kimbler gets the final say in Cepec’s fate.

Kimbler may sentence Cepec, 44, to death, life in prison with no possibility for parole or life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 or 30 years.

Cepec was convicted of killing 73-year-old Frank 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 Cepec from prison.

His trial began Feb. 4 — two years and eight months after the murder of Munz, a Chatham Township historian. The trial was delayed so long because of tests of Cepec’s mental competency and for changes in defense attorneys.

During the 2½-week trial, the jury heard from police officers, sheriff’s deputies, forensics experts and acquaintances of Cepec.

The trial entered the penalty phase on March 4, during which the jury weighed “aggravating circumstances,” including Cepec being on parole and committing murder while committing other crimes, and “mitigating factors,” such as Cepec’s mental disorders and deprived childhood.

The jurors deliberated just more than eight hours before making their recommendation.

Steven Cepec, 44, is handcuffed after a Medina County common pleas jury recommended him for the death penalty for killing Chatham Township historian Frank Munz, 73, in 2010. (GAZETTE FILE PHOTO)

Cepec was arrested less than an hour after Munz’s death. He at first denied he killed Munz but confessed within 24 hours, sheriff’s deputies testified during his trial.

Deputies said Cepec confessed at least four more times, saying he meant to rob Munz, not kill him, and that he should be executed for his actions. Cepec changed his mind the last day of testimony, though, when he begged the jury for mercy.

“It haunts me, over and over,” Cepec told the jury. “I get nightmares of this when I sleep. I see his face.”

Cepec told the jury he killed Munz because he panicked when Munz fought back during the home invasion and robbery.

Testimony showed that Cepec intended to use the money he took from Munz to purchase drugs.

The encounter with Munz was the final chapter in Cepec’s criminal history.

He 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 nglunt@medina-gazette.com.