(WKBN) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost released the “2019 Capital Crimes Annual Report” on Wednesday, which details every death sentence in Ohio since 1981.
This includes cases in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Since 1981, 340 death sentences have been issued in the state. Under Ohio’s law, 56 death row inmates have been executed, all of which were men with an average of more than 17 years spent in prison.
Since 1981, 21 death row inmates have had commutations, lessening their sentences.
The report said there were 143 active death sentences in Ohio at the end of 2019. This includes cases pending in state and federal courts.
According to the report, Mahoning County has issued 14 death sentences since 1981. There are five active death sentences in the county.
NOTE: Summaries for inmates were taken from the 2019 Capital Crimes Annual Report.
“On August 26, 1986, Eley murdered 28-year-old Ihsan Aydah in the Sinjil Market in Youngstown. Mr. Aydah was the owner of the market. Eley shot Mr. Aydah in the head, and then Eley and his accomplice, Melvin Green, stole Mr. Aydah’s wallet from his pocket and money from the cash register. Eley later confessed to Youngstown police.”
- Sentenced on July 14, 1987
- Governor Kasich commuted Eley’s death sentence to life in prison without parole on July 10, 2012.
“On April 1, 1983, Grant murdered her children, 2-year-old Joseph and 1-year-old Donovan, by setting fire to the bedroom of their house in Youngstown. Grant was the only adult in the house at the time of the intentionally set fire and made no attempts to save the children. Several smaller fires, unreported to the authorities, had been set in her basement, including one in the fuse box designed to appear like an electrical fire. The boys’ bedroom fire smelled of an accelerant similar to the one used in the fuse box fire. A sample of the accelerant was taken from the fuse box, and it was found to be very similar to charcoal lighter fluid found in a can in an abandoned house near Grant’s home. The can show Grant’s fingerprints. In the month prior to the murder, Grant purchased $5,000 worth of life insurance for each of the boys but none for her other daughter who lived with Grant’s grandmother.”
- Sentenced on November 1, 1983
- Governor Celeste commuted Grant’s death sentence to life in prison on January 1, 1991.
“On 01/03/89, Spivey murdered 53-year-old Veda Vesper in her Youngstown home. Spivey broke into Ms. Vesper’s house, stabbed her multiple times, and brutally beat her to death. Spivey also stole Ms. Vesper’s car and jewelry.”
- Sentenced on November 20, 1989
- Died of natural causes on January 17, 2020.
“On May 2, 1991, Gerish murdered his mother, Ann Gerish and a bystander, Eva Thigpen, in Youngstown. Mrs. Thigpen was a passenger in a car that had picked up Ms. Gerish, after she ran into the street during an argument with Gerish. When the driver stopped the car and got out to summon police, Gerish pulled up to the car, repeatedly shot into the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side and continued shooting. All eight shots that Gerish fired struck either Ms. Gerish or Mrs. Thigpen. Gerish later confessed to police and bragged that he was able to kill two people at one time.”
- Sentenced on June 23, 1992
- Died of natural causes on July 4, 1999
“On March 3, 1989, Vrabel murdered his girlfriend, 29-year-old Susan Clemente, and their 3-year-old
daughter, Lisa Clemente, in their apartment in Struthers. Vrabel shot Ms. Clemente in the face and head and shot Lisa in the head. Three days later, Vrabel wrapped the bodies in blankets and stuffed Ms. Clemente in the refrigerator and Lisa in the freezer with her teddy bears. Vrabel continued to live in the apartment for a month after the murders. Vrabel confessed to the Parma police.”
- Sentenced on October 17, 1995
- Executed by lethal injection on July 14, 2004
“On January 28, 1994, Brown murdered 32-year-old Isam Salman and 30-year-old Haydar Al-Turk at
the Midway Market in Youngstown. Mr. Salman was the store owner and Mr. Al-Turk was an employee. Brown entered the store and shot Mr. Salman and Mr. Al-Turk multiple times. Brown later confessed to killing Mr. Al-Turk, but stated he did not recall shooting Mr. Salman. Brown received a death sentence for the murder of Salman.”
- Sentenced on January 28, 1994
- Executed by lethal injection on February 4, 2010
“On June 11, 1996, Cornwell murdered 3-year-old Jessica Ballew on the porch of her home in Youngstown. Jessica’s mother was friends with a man whom Cornwell and his fellow gang members were looking for to shoot. When Jessica’s mother told Cornwell and his gang that the man was not at her house, Cornwell opened fire on the porch, fatally shooting Jessica in the head. Cornwell was also convicted for the attempted murders of Jessica’s mother and two other people at the house.”
- Sentenced on May 23, 1997
- Governor Strickland commuted Cornwell’s death sentence to life in prison without parole on November 15, 2010
“On April 30, 1996, Herring murdered 69-year-old Herman Naze, Jimmie Lee Jones, and 44-year-old
Dennis Kotheimer at the Newport Inn bar in Youngstown. Herring and accomplices Adelbert Callahan, Antwan Jones, Eugene Foose, Louis Allen and Kitwan Dalton robbed the Newport Inn, shooting the bartender and four customers. Mr. Naze, Mr. Jones and Mr. Kotheimer were all customers at the bar who died as a result of the shootings. (Herring received the death penalty for all three victims.)”
- Sentenced on February 23, 1998
- Death sentenced specifications were dismissed and the trial court sentenced Herring to life in prison with parole after 103 years on October 15, 2015
“On January 18, 1997, Group murdered 56-year-old Robert Lozier at the Downtown Bar in
Youngstown. Mr. Lozier and his wife, Sandra Lozier, owned the bar. Group, who was a delivery man for Ohio Wine Imports Company, made weekly deliveries to the bar. On the day of the murder, Group went to the bar to review some invoices. He forced Mr. and Mrs. Lozier into the restroom at gunpoint, shot them in the head, and stole between $1,200 and $1,300 cash from the bar. Mrs. Lozier was able to call 911 and testified against Group at trial. DNA testing conducted prior to trial revealed that Mr. Lozier’s blood was on Group’s shoe when he was arrested.”
- Sentenced on May 6, 1999
- Executive date set for January 10, 2024
“On April 29, 2003, Koliser murdered a patrol officer, 26-year-old Michael Hartzell, in Youngstown.
Officer Hartzell had stopped Koliser’s car for a traffic violation. As Officer Hartzell was running Koliser’s license plate, Koliser exited his car and shot Officer Hartzell three times in the chest. At trial Koliser said that he showed no mercy in killing Officer Hartzell, so he did not expect any mercy in return.”
- Sentenced on November 7, 2003
- Committed suicide while on death row on May 7, 2005
John E. Drummond:
“On March 24, 2003, Drummond murdered 3-month-old Jiyen Dent, Jr., at his home in Youngstown.
Drummond incorrectly believed Jiyen’s father was involved in the 1998 murder of one of Drummond’s fellow gang members. Drummond and an accomplice, Wayne Gilliam, drove to the Dent household. Drummond exited the car and fired 11 shots from an AK47 assault rifle into the house, fatally wounding Jiyen in the head. Drummond later confessed to his cellmate that he was the shooter. Gilliam was also sentenced to 54 years in prison for his involvement in the aggravated murder.”
- Sentenced on March 12, 2004
- Executive date set in 2020, but was reprieved until April 21, 2022
“On December 29, 1985, Bennie Adams murdered 19-year-old Gina Tenney in Youngstown, Ohio. Ms.
Tenney was a student at Youngstown State University and lived in the apartment above Adams. Adams raped and strangled Ms. Tenney before throwing her body into the Mahoning River. The murder became a cold case until the DNA from the rape kit, which police preserved for over 22 years, was matched with Adams’ DNA.”
- Sentenced on October 30, 2008
- Re-sentenced to 20 years to life in prison on June 6, 2016
Willie Gene Wilks Jr.:
“On May 21, 21013, Wilks murdered 20-year-old Orora Wilkins on a porch of a Youngstown, Ohio
home. Wilks was dating Ms. Wilkins’ mother. Earlier in the day, Wilks had argued with Ms. Wilkins’ brother, William, over the telephone. Wilks then arrived at the home of Mr. Wilkins’ girlfriend where Mr. Wilkins, Ms. Wilkins, and Alex Morales were visiting. Wilks shot Ms. Wilkins in the head with an AK-47 and shot Mr. Morales in the back as he was attempting to flee with a 5-month-old child in his arms; the child was unharmed. Wilks then shot at, but missed, Mr. Wilkins who was looking out an upstairs bedroom window. Wilks fled the area and was later apprehended.”
- Sentenced on May 19, 2014
- Pending in the trial court on Wilks’ postconviction petition as of December 2019
“On November 6, 2015, Hundley murdered 41-year-old Erika Huff in her Youngstown home by beating and strangling her. Ms. Huff, who had a child with Hundley’s brother, had permitted Hundley to stay with her prior to her murder. Because Ms. Huff suffered from multiple sclerosis and was confined to a wheelchair, she wore a medic alert necklace. During her murder, Ms. Huff’s alert necklace was pressed which contacted paramedics and her mother, Denise Johnson. When paramedics responded Hundley told them Ms. Huff’s alert was pressed accidentally. But when
Ms. Johnson arrived, Hundley attacked her with a hammer and stabbed her with a knife. Hundley placed Ms. Johnson with Ms. Huff’s lifeless body in a bedroom, set the room on fire, and then changed his clothes. Police rescued Ms. Johnson from the burning bedroom, and located Hundley in the house where he claimed he too was a victim. Police recovered the bag of Hundley’s clothing containing Ms. Johnson’s blood, and Hundley’s DNA was found under Ms. Huff’s fingernails.”
- Sentenced on June 6, 2018
- Pending in the Ohio Supreme County on Hundley’s direct appeal as of December 2019
Trumbull County has issued 11 death sentences since 1981. There are eight active death sentences in the county.
Danny Lee Hill:
“On September 10, 1985, Hill and an accomplice, Tim Combs, murdered 12-year-old Raymond Fife in a wooded field in Warren. Raymond was riding his bicycle through the field when Hill and Combs abducted him. Hill and Combs raped Raymond, bit his genitals, choked him and burnt his face with lighter fluid. Hill later inquired with police about a $5,000 reward and told them facts that were not disclosed to the public, which eventually led to his confession.
- Sentenced on February 28, 1986
- Pending in the U.S. Supreme Court on Hill’s petition for a writ of certiorari from the denial of Hill’s motion for a new trial as of December 2019
“On May 6, 1986, Lorraine murdered 77-year-old Raymond Montgomery and 80-year-old Doris
Montgomery in their home. The Montgomerys had hired Lorraine to perform tasks around their house. Lorraine stabbed Mr. Montgomery five times with a butcher knife and stabbed Mrs. Montgomery, who was bed-ridden, nine times. Lorraine stole their money and when he spent all of the money that day, he returned to the Montgomerys’ house to steal again. (Lorraine received a death sentence for both victims.)”
- Sentenced on December 9, 1986
- Execution date set for March 15, 2023
“On August 15, 1988, Williams and an accomplice, Christopher Daniel, murdered 65-year-old George
Melnick and attempted to murder Katherine Melnick in their Warren home. After forcing their way into the house, Williams and Daniel beat the Melnicks with a brick, an ax handle and a lamp, killing Mr. Melnick and severely injuring Mrs. Melnick. Williams also attempted to rape Mrs. Melnick. Williams and Daniel bragged to several friends about beating and robbing the elderly couple, and Williams even demonstrated what he had done.”
- Sentenced on March 15, 1989
- Pending in the 11th District of Appeals on the denial of Williams’ Akins claims
“On February 7, 1991, Biros murdered 22-year-old Tami Engstrom in Brookfield Township. Ms.
Engstrom had met Biros that night at the Nickelodeon Lounge in Masury. Biros stabbed and beat Ms. Engstrom 91 times in an attempt at sexual mutilation and then strangled her to death. Biros also stole Ms. Engstrom’s diamond ring. Biros later showed police where he had hidden Ms. Engstrom’s severed nude body in Pennsylvania.”
- Sentenced on October 29, 1991
- Executed by lethal injection of December 8, 2009
“On June 27, 1991, Davie murdered 38-year-old John Ira Coleman and 21-year-old Tracey Jefferys
and attempted to murder William Everett at the Veterinary Companies of America in Warren. Mr. Coleman, Ms. Jefferys and Mr. Everett were Davie’s co-workers at the distributor plant until Davie was fired two months before the murders. Davie shot Mr. Coleman and Mr. Everett several times, but Mr. Everett survived. Davie caught up with Ms. Jefferys, who tried to escape, and beat her to death with a folding chair. Davie later confessed to police.”
- Sentenced on March 25, 1992
- Executed by lethal injection on August 10, 2010
“On July 7, 1995, Getsy and an accomplice, Richard McNulty, murdered 66-year-old Ann Serafino
and attempted to murder her son, 39-year-old Charles Serafino, in their Hubbard home. Getsy and McNulty had been hired by Mr. Serafino’s business competitor to kill Mr. Serafino. Getsy and McNulty shot their way into the Serafino’s house and then shot the victims multiple times, killing Ms. Serafino and seriously wounding Mr. Serafino. Getsy bragged to his friends about the shooting and later confessed to police.”
- Sentenced on September 12, 1996
- Executed by lethal injection on August 18, 2009
“On September 14, 1997, Carter murdered his 68-year-old adoptive grandmother, Veader Prince, at her home in Farmington Township. Upon his release from jail for theft, Ms. Prince refused to allow Carter to live with her. Carter raped, beat and stabbed Ms. Prince 18 times and also stole her money.”
- Sentenced on April 1, 1998
- No pending capital proceedings in state or federal courts
Stanley T. Adams:
“On October 11, 1999, Adams murdered 43-year-old Esther Cook and her 12-year-old daughter, Ashley Cook, in their Warren home. Ms. Cook had previously allowed Adams to live with her and Ashley. Adams beat Ms. Cook to death, breaking her nose and ribs and causing severe trauma to her head, neck, chest, and abdomen. Adams raped Ashley, punched her multiple times in the mouth, hit her in the head, and strangled her with an electrical cord… By the time of his trial for the Cooks’ murders, Adams had been convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life for the August 6, 1999 rape and murder of 40-year-old Roslyn Taylor of Poland Township. (Adams was sentenced to death for both victims.)”
- Sentenced on October 10, 2001
- No pending capital proceedings in state or federal courts
“On December 11, 2001, Jackson and his girlfriend, Donna Roberts, murdered Roberts’ former husband, 57-year-old Robert Fingerhut, at the home Roberts shared with Mr. Fingerhut in Howland Township. Roberts let Jackson into her home to wait for Mr. Fingerhut. When Mr. Fingerhut returned home from work, Jackson shot him twice in the back and once in the head, then stole his car. DNA testing on bloodstains found in Mr. Fingerhut’s car matched the profiles of Jackson and Mr. Fingerhut. Jackson admitted the shooting to police, but claimed it was committed in self-defense. Donna Roberts also received a death sentence for the murder of Robert Fingerhut.”
- Sentenced on August 14, 2012
- Pending in the district court on Jackson’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus
Donna Marie Roberts:
“On December 11, 2001, Roberts and her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson, murdered her former husband, 57-year-old Robert Fingerhut, at the home Roberts and Mr. Fingerhut shared in Howland Township. Roberts gave Jackson entry into her home where he shot Mr. Fingerhut twice in the back and once in the head. Roberts and Jackson had planned the murder for months prior to Jackson’s release from prison. Jackson also received a death sentence for the murder of Mr. Fingerhut.”
- Sentenced on June 10, 2014
- Pending in the 11th District Court of Appeals on the denial of Roberts’ postconviction relief petition
“On September 27, 2012, Martin murdered 21-year-old Jeremy Cole and attempted to murder 30-year-old Melissa Putnam in Putnam’s Warren, Ohio home. Martin stole Cole’s cell phone, restrained him, and then shot him between the eyes at close range. Then in another room, Martin shot Putnam, but somehow she was able to shield her head; the bullet passed through her hand and lodged in the back of her head. Martin confessed to committing these crimes.”
- Sentenced on September 24, 2014
- No pending capital proceedings in state or federal court
Columbiana County has issued one death sentence since 1981. There are no active death sentences in the county.
“On September 3, 1988, Reynolds murdered his girlfriend, 43-year-old Lynn Hanna, at their home in East Liverpool. Reynolds and Ms. Hanna had previously committed an arson scheme to collect the insurance proceeds, and Reynolds feared that Ms. Hanna would talk to the authorities. Reynolds broke Ms. Hanna’s neck, but when he discovered that she was still alive the next day, he shot her in the chest. Reynolds then removed Ms. Hanna’s lung, where the bullet was lodged in, and cut her head off, both of which were never found. Reynolds cut Ms. Hanna’s body into pieces, put them in several trash bags and threw the bags into the Ohio River near Chester, West Virginia. Reynolds admitted the murder to his son and a friend.”
- Sentenced on April 28, 1995
- Died of natural causes on February 4, 2002
Cuyahoga County reported the most with 70 death sentences since 1981. There are 21 active sentences in the county.
More details can be found in the full report.