Judgement day

Curtis Clinton murder trial begins today
Jessica Cuffman
Oct 28, 2013

 

Accused triple murderer Curtis Clinton heads to trial today.

If an Erie County jury finds him guilty of murder in the September 2012 deaths of Heather Jackson, 23, and her children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months, he could face the death penalty.

Not since 1990 has a potential death case in Erie County proceeded this close to trial.

That year, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter pursued the death penalty against John Ray Bonds, 56, a Hells Angels member who in 1988 mistook David Hartlaub, 28, for a rival gang member. He shot him 13 times.

“We actually got to the jury selection stage,” Baxter said.

In the end, Bonds pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On Aug. 25, 2012, another high-profile death penalty case ended in a plea agreement.

Kevin Randleman, 52, pleaded guilty to the March 19, 2011, murder of Sandusky police Officer Andrew Dunn. Randleman shot and killed Dunn after the officer stopped him for riding a bicycle without lights.

Prosecutors intended to take the case to trial — pursuant to the wishes of Dunn’s father, Matt Dunn, also a Sandusky police officer — but the proceedings in a competency hearing unexpectedly came to a halt when Dunn agreed to pull the possibility of death off the table.

Randleman agreed to plead guilty, securing him a spot in prison for the rest of his life.

Clinton’s trial is slated to start with more than 70 jurors arriving at the Erie County Courthouse this morning.

The case is in Judge Tygh Tone’s courtroom, and it is being prosecuted by Baxter and Ohio Attorney General special prosecutor Paul Scarsella, a death penalty expert.

Clinton, 42, is represented by certified death penalty defense attorney Robert Dixon, of Cleveland, who had also represented Randleman.

Unlike the Randleman case, however, prosecutors have made it clear they will not offer a plea agreement to Clinton, despite objections from Jackson’s parents and siblings.

Clinton is charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder and multiple death specifications in the three killings.

In Ohio, aggravating factors must accompany an aggravated murder charge for a defendant to face the death penalty.

In this case, the alleged crime fits the bill: Clinton is accused of killing two children younger than age 13, also during the commission of several other felonies, the most significant of which is the alleged rape of 3-year-old Celina the day of her death.

These circumstances place the case in the death penalty category if he’s found guilty.

Leading up to the trial, attorneys on both sides have filed dozens of motions — requesting a jury view of the John Street home where Jackson and her children died, as well as a requesting a change of venue because of the vast publicity surrounding the case.

Tone denied both those requests this week.

The case is set to start this morning with final jury selection. The 12-person jury could be seated by day’s end.

At the earliest, Tone anticipates opening statements and the first witnesses taking the stand Tuesday morning.

Clinton’s criminal history:
• January 1987: Curtis Clinton, then 17, forces his way into a Sandusky home and squeezes a woman until she passes out. The woman had refused his sexual advances. He strangles another woman who tries to intervene. Clinton is convicted of felonious assault and sentenced to a year in youth prison.

• April 3, 1997: The body of Misty Keckler, 18, is found nude, face-down in a bathtub with her feet and hands bound behind her back in a Fostoria mobile home. Clinton, 27, is arrested and charged in her death.

• 1999: Clinton pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter and is sentenced to 10 years in prison after Wood County prosecutors drop a murder charge in exchange for his guilty plea. He receives an additional three years for the assault of prison guards in jail while he was awaiting trial.

• February 2012: Clinton is released from prison.

• Sept. 3, 2012: A 17-year-old Clyde girl tells Sandusky police Clinton strangled and raped her on Sept. 2 at his Campbell Street apartment.

• Sept. 8, 2012: The bodies of Heather Jackson and her two children are discovered in a John Street home. Jackson’s naked body is found lodged between a box spring and a mattress. The bodies of the children are found clothed in a closet. They were all strangled to death.

• Sept. 9, 2012: Clinton attempts suicide in a Clyde hotel. His 19-year-old girlfriend calls for help, and paramedics take him to Bellevue Hospital.

• Sept. 10, 2012: Sandusky detectives identify Clinton through cell phone records and track him down to Bellevue, where he’s taken into custody. He is charged with three counts murder and one count rape and booked into the Erie County jail, where he has remained since.

• Sept. 19, 2012: Clinton is indicted on three counts of rape, five counts of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and multiple specifications, including the potential of the death penalty.

• July 2013: Jury pool questionnaires are sent out, attorneys start to narrow the pool.

• Today: Final jury questioning begins for the start of the criminal trial.

Comments

santown419

Hopefully he will get what he deserves. If it is proved he did it i truly hope he gets the penalty. ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to kids.

Darwin's choice

Time to ride the lightning Clinton......

sandtown born a...

Death is way too easy for this piece of garbage, long drawn out torture until death is more along the lines of justice.

007

His name was David Hartlaub not Dale.

sandtown born a...

I thought that was the case

Jason Werling

Thanks 007, we fixed it.

Jmschmidt812

Let him take a plea deal and put him in general population. Then maybe someone could " accidentally " leak what he did to those children and their mother. Maybe, just maybe prison justice will do what our own justice system won't or can't do!!!

Unassumer

I like that option!

red white and blue

Jmschmidt812 ↑^^^ I second that motion and as far as if he dodi ot he did

dorothy gale

I could not be on this jury. It would be impossible for me to be in the same room with this sick, sick creature.

tdluvpit's picture
tdluvpit

Special shout out & thx to all the losers in the judicial system who let this oxygen thief walk the streets so he can kill again & RAPE BABIES!!!

West

FYI: Baxter has a history of botching murder cases in the past, one that comes to mind is the case where the state's key witness, Krista Harris, signed an affidavit in 2001 accusing him of forcing her into a non-consensual sexual relationship, and then retaliated against her by instituting sham theft charges because she refused to commit perjury.

So, I'm not at all surprised by the fact that the family of the deceased has demanded that someone watch over ever single decision Kevina makes regarding this death-penalty case. Yes, they also, have many concerns regarding the competency of the staff of Baxter's office as well.

Well, this should be a good indicator to the people that he just can't be trusted!!!!

Enough is enough!

bmgasser

Honor the family's wishes and just hand down life with no parole and get this thing over with. No point in making them relive the nightmare. Life with no parole is the fastest and cheapest way to ensure he dies uncomfortably

Unassumer

He's absolutely guilty and it shouldn't take the jury more than 30 minutes to come to that conclusion. He should get the death penalty and not be separated from the general population so that they can carry out the sentence.

Colonel Angus

Let him walk. Just let us know when and where ahead of time so we can pick out a nice and sturdy tree.

santown419

Coming from someone with the name colonel you are stuck in the past where certain people were released to be hung or lynched.