August 22, 2014

Medina
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68°F

Woman who killed son seeks commutation

Convicted killer Nicole Diar has applied to have her life prison sentence commuted because of “family hardship.”

Paperwork sent to Lorain County officials by the Ohio Parole Board this week doesn’t contain any further explanation for why the 37-year-old Diar is seeking early release from prison for the 2003 murder of her 4-year-old son.

Attorney Kreig Brusnahan, who represented Diar in a 2010 deal with prosecutors that saw her original death sentence converted to life in prison, said he wasn’t involved in filing the request. He said it’s possible Diar is pursuing commutation without the aid of a lawyer.

“I was as surprised as anyone when I learned that she had filed for commutation,” Brusnahan said.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said he likewise is in the dark about the exact reasons Diar is seeking commutation, something he intends to oppose.

“She took her son’s life,” Will said. “She needs to be held accountable, end of story.”

During Diar’s 2005 trial, prosecutors argued that Diar killed Jacob Diar in August 2003 and set her West 10th Street home in Lorain ablaze to cover up the crime.

Trial testimony revealed that Diar long had feared she wouldn’t have a child of her own because of injuries she sustained at 4 years old when her nightgown caught on fire. The incident left her with physical and mental scars that her defense lawyers argued should keep her off death row.

Jacob, prosecutors said, became a burden to Diar, who funded a party lifestyle for herself through a substantial settlement with the nightgown’s manufacturer. Instead of caring for her son, Diar turned his care over to relatives and teenage babysitters, whom she told to dose the boy with an elixir of codeine and acetaminophen to get him to sleep.

Exactly how Jacob was killed remains a mystery. An autopsy of the boy’s charred remains found no evidence of soot in his lungs and a low carbon monoxide level in his bloodstream, indications that he was dead before the fire was set, but an exact cause of death was never determined.

The jury that originally heard the case recommended a death sentence that was imposed by then-Judge Kosma Glavas.

But the death sentence was overturned in 2008 by the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled that jurors weren’t properly instructed that a single juror could have removed execution as a possible punishment by refusing to consider the death penalty.

Diar cut a deal with prosecutors in 2010 in which she agreed to life without parole and prosecutors didn’t push for a renewed death sentence.

The deal, approved by a three-judge panel, allowed Diar to escape from virtual solitary confinement on death row at the Ohio Reformatory for Women and to enter the prison’s less-restrictive general population. It also took away a chance that a new jury would have given Diar a prison sentence that would have given her a shot at parole.

Will said Friday that another part of that agreement called for Diar not to challenge her incarceration in the future and he believes her commutation request violates the bargain struck three years ago.

The paperwork sent to the county seeks input from prosecutors, police and the judge who heard the case, although Glavas has since died. The Parole Board ultimately will make a recommendation to Ohio Gov. John Kasich about whether he should commute Diar’s sentence.

Diar’s family could not be reached for comment Friday and additional paperwork on the case sent to the Parole Board was not immediately available, a spokesman for the board said.

Contact reporter Brad Dicken at (440) 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com .