YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The attorney for a man accused of a cold case 2009 murder in Smith Township told a judge Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that he has evidence of people seeing the victim alive after prosecutors say she was murdered.
The topic came up during a hearing on a motion before Judge Maureen Sweeney to exclude any evidence from a previous manslaughter conviction against Robert L. Moore, 51, of Alliance, who was indicted in December for the 2009 death of Glenna Jean White, 17, of Smith Township.
Prosecutors said Moore was the last person to see White alive June 2, 2009. She has not been seen again, according to prosecutors. Her body has never been found, and Moore was indicted after the investigation into her disappearance was reopened in 2020 after an investigator with the Portage County Drug Task Force got a tip.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Haupt said during the motion hearing that prosecutors have presented no evidence that White is dead. The hearing was on whether to exclude evidence of a 1993 manslaughter conviction against his client.
Haupt said White’s mother reported a few months after she went missing in 2009 that she had heard that White was sneaking back into her home and leaving before her mother woke up. When the mother checked White’s room, she found several of White’s favorite clothes missing and filed a police report, Haupt said.
About three weeks after White disappeared, White’s mother got a call from someone who claimed to have seen White at a hotel on U.S. Route 62. The reason the caller remembered White is that White was kind to the caller’s daughter who has Down’s Syndrome, Haupt said.
Someone else reported seeing White in May 2010 in Louisville, Haupt said.
“This flies in the face of what this prosecution is going to tell the jury about what happened,” Haupt said. “There is no evidence of death. There is no evidence of cause of death.”
Haupt asked Judge Sweeney to exclude evidence from Moore’s 1993 manslaughter conviction in Stark County Common Pleas Court for the death of Virginia Lecorchick, 22, of Alliance, who was beaten to death. Her body was recovered from Berlin Lake.
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Yacovone argued that jurors should be allowed to hear the facts of that case because it is similar to the way investigators say White died. Yacovone said Lecorchick was killed after Moore met her at a bar, they were drinking, and they went to the lake to drink.
At the lake, Moore tried to have sex with her but Lecorchick refused so Moore beat her until she was dead then threw her body in the lake, Yacovone said. Moore later burned his clothes before confessing to investigators.
In the White case, Yacovone said Moore was in a home drinking, along with White, and she refused his sexual advances and accused Moore of rape. Moore became incensed, demanded someone’s car to take her home, and came back an hour later covered in blood, in addition to having pants soaked with water and mud.
A week later, the car that Moore used caught fire, Yacovone said.
Yacovone said the facts in both cases mirror one another. He cited cases that show that jurors should be allowed to hear facts about the first murder because it will show them Moore’s mind and how he operates.
“The fact patterns are so striking that they establish a behavioral footprint,” Yacovone said.
Yacovone said case law supports his contention that the jurors can hear about the previous conviction, and if Judge Sweeney feels it is necessary, she can give a jury instruction to make sure jurors do not view the evidence in a prejudicial way.
“It seems like the [Ohio] Supreme Court is consistent with allowing these fact patterns to come in,” Yacovone said.
As for evidence of White’s death, Yacovone said Judge Sweeney was not being asked to rule on that but to rule on Haupt’s motion about allowing jurors to hear about Moore’s previous manslaughter conviction.
Haupt said the previous conviction has no value other than prejudicing jurors against his client.
Haupt also said that when the car was burned in the White case, firefighters ruled the cause was not intentional and that the car sat in the driveway for a week. He also said two of the witnesses prosecutors are counting on gave conflicting statements in the White case.
Judge Sweeney will rule on the motion at a later date.