Murder trials set for 2014

Four murder trials will go before the bench in Erie County courtrooms this year, but no trial dates have been set in the cases of Tommy Reogas, Michael Milner, Denzel Castile and Thomas Ricks.
Courtney Astolfi
Jan 13, 2014
In 2013, Erie County prosecutors wrapped up proceedings in six murder or manslaughter cases from an unusually crime-ridden 2012.

But Reogas and Milner have yet to go to trial in two 2012 deaths, Ricks awaits re-trial from a 2008 Sandusky murder and Castile could face the death penalty for the 2013 slaying of his cousin’s 11-week-old daughter.

Death penalty trials typically cost $300,000, with Erie County taxpayers covering most, if not all, of the expenses.

REOGAS
In July 2012, John Debski died from multiple blows to the back of the head inside his Wilbert Street home. Sandusky police arrested Tommy Reogas, 36, later that day. He allegedly used a staple-hammer to fatally bludgeon Debski and was charged with aggravated murder.

Reogas’ trial date continued to get pushed back in 2013, until finally in December, his lawyer Ronnie Wingate asked for a delay until further notice, according to court documents.

“There were unexpected delays—the defendant’s attorney had an illness,” Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said

“Counsel for the defendant, Reogas, underwent a medical procedure on Nov. 23, 2013,” documents stated.

Baxter said he anticipates a firm trial date to be set sometime in the next couple of months.

MILNER
Just two weeks after Reogas was arrested, Michael Milner, 25, called Sandusky police from his Fulton Street apartment after he fatally injured Owen Barker, his then girlfriend’s 3-year-old son, police said.

An autopsy later determined the child had been beaten—he suffered heavy internal and external bruising and a blow to his torso that punctured his heart, killing him.

Barker’s mother, Danielle Flannery, had left the boy in Milner’s care that day while she was at work. She was charged with involuntary manslaughter because police believed she was aware of ongoing abuse Owen had sustained at Milner’s hands.

In December, Flannery pleaded guilty to felony permitting child abuse, and will be sentenced Feb. 27.

Milner, meanwhile, had a trial date scheduled for today, but that has also been delayed, Baxter said.

Milner originally hired a Detroit attorney, but switched to Cleveland lawyer Jeffry Kelleher in spring of 2013, court documents stated.

Baxter said the case has been delayed to allow Kelleher time to catch up. Milner faces the death penalty, which generally requires more preparation, Baxter said.

RICKS
Thomas Ricks shot and killed Calvin Harper Jr. in his Parkview Boulevard home in March 2008. Police learned Ricks, 28, was hired by a Detroit drug dealer to kill Harper so they could rob him of $20,000 in drug money.

Ricks was convicted in 2010 for aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison. The Ohio Supreme Court reviewed the case in January 2013, however, and found an instance of hearsay testimony it believed inadmissible.

The case was sent back to the Erie County Court of Common Pleas in November to be retried.

No dates have been set for Rick’s re-trial because prosecutors and attorneys have just started working on the case again, Baxter said.

A pre-trial was scheduled for last week, but was canceled because of severe weather, Baxter said.

CASTILE
Denzel Castile, 19, fatally stabbed his cousin’s 11-week-old daughter, Athena Castile, in May 2013 at a relative’s Dewey Street home, police said.

Police arrived at the home while Castile was scuffling with relatives, but in the chaos, he managed to wrest away Athena and stab her several times.

Family members later told police Castile had not been himself. He was arrested, charged with aggravated murder and taken to the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital a week later, where he has remained since.

Castile is facing the death penalty, but it appears as if his trial—if the case reaches that stage— is still months away.

In October, a doctor concluded Castile did not grasp his charges.

“The defendant does not fully understand his legal charges, their relative severity or potential penalty, nor can he fully assist his attorney in his defense,” according to court documents.

The doctor indicated Castile could be rehabilitated and brought back to mental competency with sufficient treatment—but that he was not yet at that point.

The court will reconsider Castile’s competency again on April 16, documents stated.