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Triple murder suspect has violent past

Emil Whitis • Sep 12, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Curtis Clinton had no trouble with Sandusky police in the seven months since his release from prison — until Monday.

Sandusky police records show officers may have been unaware the 41-year-old convicted killer was living in this area.

Apart from his regular check-ins with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, as he’s required to do as a registered sex offender, Clinton seemed to fly under the radar.

One week ago, a 17-year-old girl told Sandusky police Clinton had forcibly raped her at his Campbell Street apartment — the same apartment he used as his address in the sex offender registry.

On Monday, Sandusky police arrested him as the sole suspect in Saturday’s triple homicide on John Street.

It appears as if Clinton didn’t change much in the 13 years he spent in prison, locked behind bars on the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter and two assault charges, for which he was convicted in 1999.

He was originally charged with murder for the 1997 killing in Wood County of 18-year-old Misty Keckler, according to Toledo Blade stories during court proceedings at the time.

Keckler’s naked body was found in a bathtub, her feet and hands tied behind her back, according to court records.

Investigators later determined Keckler was killed before Clinton submerged her body in the bathtub.

His attorneys said she had died while the two were having consensual sex — Clinton had accidentally choked Keckler to death.

Sandusky police suspect Clinton strangled Heather Jackson, 23, and her two children, Celina, 3, and Wayne, 18 months.

Jackson’s body was found naked under a mattress. Autopsy results due this week may confirm investigators’ suspicions.

Police said there are no signs Jackson was sexually assaulted.

The autopsy report may provide further details on that, too.

In the Wood County killing, defense attorneys said there was no way to prove Clinton had deliberately killed Keckler, according to the Toledo Blade story. 

At the time, prosecutors said if the case had gone to trial, two of Clinton’s former girlfriends were prepared to testify that he choked them or was otherwise physically violent during sex, or when they refused to have sex with him.

In 1999, Clinton pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

He was also convicted of two counts of assault on a police officer after allegedly attacking jail guards when he was behind bars, awaiting trial for killing Keckler.

In a separate case — before he was ever indicted in Keckler’s death — Clinton pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor  for an incident involving a 14-year-old girl.

He was 27 at the time.

For that crime, he was labeled a registered sex offender and sentenced to 16 months in prison, which he served while awaiting trial in Keckler’s death.

He was finally released from prison in February.

He immediately returned to Sandusky, the town where he grew up and  has family, assistant police Chief John Orzech said.

He registered his address within three days of his release, as required by Ohio law.

Until last week, he had had no run-ins with police.

Neighbors at his Campbell Street apartment, where Clinton rented a second-story unit, described him as a seemingly nice guy, although he had a penchant for using his white Cadillac to lure young girls.

One neighbor, asking to remain anonymous, called Clinton a “loner.”

He said Clinton would offer a smile and wave, but he never conversed much with other residents.

Downstairs neighbor Gene Eck, 51, agreed — he said Clinton always seemed too busy for more than an exchange of pleasantries.

Clinton’s mother, who identified herself as Mrs. Cole, said Clinton was a busy man. She said he held down three jobs, working at American Quality Stripping, the Thirsty Pony and Krunchie Pickle.

An unidentified bartender at the Thirsty Pony remembers Clinton as a “really nice guy.”

She said she was shocked when she heard he’d been charged with murder.

The bartender said a co-worker ran into Clinton a few days ago at the mall. Clinton made friendly small talk about getting fired and then walked off, the bartender said.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. 

Thirsty Pony owner Mike Sortino, on the other hand, couldn’t remember much about Clinton, who worked at the business for less than a month before he was fired.

Sortino wouldn’t say what Clinton did to get fired, and he refused to comment further.

“Nobody wants to be associated with something like this,” Sortino reasoned.

Meanwhile, Cole said her son is a “loving and caring son” incapable of killing someone.

She said she’s outraged by the allegations.

“I’m pissed off,” Cole said. “This whole situation is unexpected.”

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