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Judge Tone hands down sentence: DEATH

Jessica Cuffman • Nov 15, 2013 at 9:20 AM

The courtroom exploded in fury Thursday afternoon when killer and rapist Curtis Clinton, freshly condemned to death, lashed out at the family of his victims.


The tirade triggered a barrage of supercharged threats from Nick Fee, brother of murder victim Heather Jackson, 23, and uncle to her two slain children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months. “Sleep with an eye open, you piece of (expletive),” Fee shouted at Clinton during the sentencing.


The chaos erupted just after Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone handed Clinton, 42, three death sentences following the half-hour hearing.    


Watch video of back-and-forth in the player below (starts at the 22 minute mark) Viewer discretion advised — STRONG LANGUAGE —

Earlier this week, a jury recommended Clinton be sentenced to death. The same jury had convicted him of multiple counts of aggravated murder, as well as multiple counts of rape for attacking Celina the day she was killed and an unrelated attack against a then-17-year-old girl, about a week before the homicides.

On Sept. 8, 2012, Clinton raped and strangled to death Celina, and strangled to death Wayne Jr. and Heather in the Jackson family’s John Street home in Sandusky.

Clinton was arrested and charged two days after the attack. The past year has been weighted with hearing after hearing, leading up to the trial a few weeks ago.

At Thursday’s sentencing it seemed as if a valve was cracked open, releasing the emotions pent up inside some who wanted nothing more than to hasten Clinton’s date with death.

“The only thing you should thank God for is they saved your worthless (expletive) by putting you on death row,” Fee shouted at Clinton. “I’d love to come over there and stomp your teeth in.”

Others were more measured in their responses, but no less grave.

“By far this is the most brutal, the most heinous murder case this county has ever endured,” Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said during Thursdays’ hearing. “Essentially an entire family was wiped out.”

Clinton had been released from prison just seven months before he killed the Jackson family. He had served 13 years for killing 18-year-old Misty Keckler, a Fostoria woman he strangled to death in 1997.

Sandusky police identified Clinton as the last person to talk to Jackson the night she was killed, and they arrested him two days after the bodies were discovered.

During trial, Clinton proclaimed his innocence, although he told jurors he had had sex with Jackson the night she died. He said when he left the house, she was fine.

In court Thursday, dressed in orange jail garb, handcuffed and shackled, he presented a different persona than he’d shown throughout his trial.

He made a brief but defiant statement to the court.

He did not apologize, nor did he plead for his life.

“To me, all of this is just (expletive),” he said. “I don’t respect the prosecutor at all about the way this was handled. Like I said, I’ll be back again.”

Watch video of his remarks in the player below (Clinton speaks at the 4:15 minute mark of the video)

While he acknowledged the emotionally charged people sitting in the courtroom galley, he paid them no respect.

“I know there’s a lot of people who are upset here. But I’m the one who’s going through this,” he said. The statement triggered disgusted guffaws from a few of the 70 people at the hearing.

“They’re all full of (expletive), all of them,” Clinton said.

After Tone condemned Clinton to death, the Clyde rape victim and relatives of the murder victims were allowed to make statements before the judge issued sentences for the rest of his crimes.

Jackson’s mother, Jodie Lynch, pointed to pictures of her daughter and her grandchildren.

“This is all I have left of my babies,” she said.

She wanted to be angry, she said, but she decided not to be.

“As I grieve the loss of my family, you grieve yours,” she said to Clinton’s mother, who was also in the courtroom.

“There is no justice for me. You have been judged by man,” Lynch said. “You have to be judged by God.”

The Clyde woman Clinton raped a week before the homicides also made a statement to the court, as did Sarah Reynolds, a victim’s advocate, on behalf of the Keckler family.

Fee, the last family member to speak, looked squarely at Clinton and said he wanted to stomp his teeth in.

“But it ain’t worth me being away from my family and my kids,” Fee said. “Be glad you’re on death row and my buddies can’t find you. I wish they had gave you life in prison. I begged for it. Begged to save your worthless life so my friends could get you. If I get my way, they still will.”

Clinton began squirming in his seat, then launched a smattering of insults and cuss words at Fee. Deputies and police held Fee at bay in the jury box, while other deputies forced a shackled Clinton back into his chair at the defense table.

As the screaming match died down, Tone finished the hearing, sentencing Clinton to an additional life term in prison without parole for raping Celina and another 10 years in prison for raping the Clyde girl.

His case will automatically be sent to the Ohio Supreme Court for review.

As Erie County deputies escorted Clinton out of the courtroom, he continued muttering under his breath.

They drove him straight from the courthouse to Lorain Correctional Institution, where he’ll be processed before being shipped to Chillicothe Correctional Institution to be placed on death row.

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