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Family asks for life sentence

Jessica Cuffman • Oct 3, 2013 at 8:20 AM

The family of a mother and two children slain in their Sandusky home last year want prosecutors to abandon the death penalty in the accused killer’s trial.

Instead, they want Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter to offer Curtis Clinton a plea deal: life in prison without parole. They believe this would avoid a lengthy trial scheduled to start at month’s end.

Clinton, 42, is charged with aggravated murder in the Sept. 8, 2012, slaying of Heather Jackson, 23, and her two children, Celina, 3, and Wayne IV, 20 months. All three were found strangled to death in Jackson’s John Street home. Jackson’s naked body was found between a mattress and boxspring, while the children’s clothed bodies were found in a bedroom closet.

Two days later, police arrested Clinton. He was also charged in an unrelated crime — the alleged rape of a 17-year-old Clyde girl — that happened about a week before the homicides.

Autopsy results later led prosecutors to charge Clinton with an additional count of rape, for allegedly assaulting Celina the night of her death.

Jackson’s family and friends have diligently attended every court hearing in the case. Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday and last about three weeks, with the criminal trial set for Oct. 28.

“The trial gets closer and closer, and it’s really stressing me out,” said Jody Lynch, Heather’s mother. “I don’t want to hear what he’s done. But I have to go.”

Lynch and her husband, Herbert, and Heather’s brother, Nick Fee, have made it clear they want Baxter to offer Clinton life in prison without parole.

But Baxter has stopped returning their calls, Lynch said. “We haven’t talked to him at all,” she said. “It’s been months.”

In response to inquires from the Register about his conversations with Heather’s parents, Baxter issued a statement explaining he has “seriously considered” input from Heather’s parents, siblings and the father of her children.

View the entire statement by downloading the pdf below

“Taking this into consideration, as well as other aggravating factors, the state is moving forward with the trial,” Baxter said. He issued the statement after getting permission from Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone, who has issued a gag order in the case.

Heather’s family has previously talked to the father of Jackson’s children, Wayne Jackson III, 26, as well as his family, Lynch said.

Calls to Wayne Jackson III’s family on Tuesday went unreturned.

In prison, Clinton will not survive, Lynch said. “I know he won’t make it in there. And then he’ll suffer like my kids suffered, instead of going into a room and getting a shot, living like us,” she said.

Erie County taxpayers have already covered the bill for him to remain in jail for too long, she said.

“There is no justice for me. God forgive me, I want him to suffer,” she said. “I have nightmares every day, of my little one running away from him and trying to get away.”

Lynch and other family members have started an online petition, at ipetitions.com/petition/heavencouldntwait, to collect signatures in support of dropping the death penalty in the case.

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