Three recommendations from a 12-person jury that Curtis Clinton should be put to death.
“Heaven couldn’t wait,” say the T-shirts worn by family and friends of murder victims Heather Jackson, 23, and her two children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months.
There will likely be a place in hell for their killer, if the victims’ family members have their say.
“I just hope I live long enough. I’d like to be there to watch him go,” said Herb Lynch, Heather’s father and the grandfather of her children. His words came on the heels of the jury’s recommendation Tuesday that Clinton be sentenced to death for the Sept. 8, 2012, murders of Heather and her children.
Last week, the same jurors convicted Clinton, 42, of multiple counts of aggravated murder. They also convicted him of rape for sexually assaulting Celina the night she was killed and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old Clyde girl in an unrelated attack about a week before the murders.
Prosecutors submitted just a few pieces of evidence to jurors on Tuesday — DNA reports, autopsy reports, and two photos of Celina and Wayne’s brutalized bodies. But it was all they needed to convince jurors that Clinton should be sentenced to death.
Clinton’s defense attorneys made no opening or closing statements and, at Clinton’s request, they presented no witnesses.
Clinton pleaded his own case before the jury in an unsworn statement. For about 90 minutes, he proclaimed his innocence and questioned the evidence against him.
Watch his testimony in the player below
His time on the stand proved excruciating for the victims’ family.
“I think he’s just bullshit, wasting time,” Herb Lynch said. “I didn’t even want to hear him talk.”
As Clinton spoke, Nick Fee, Heather’s brother, inched toward the edge of his bench in the courtroom, his arms leaning on the edge of the galley and his hands clenched. He rocked back and forth, slightly, as Clinton pleaded with jurors.
“He was still trying to make out like he didn’t do it,” Fee later said.
The jury was unswayed by the killer’s pleas. They spent about three hours deliberating before deciding the circumstances of the murders outweighed any moral factors that could have spared Clinton’s life.
As Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone read the verdicts and polled the jurors, Clinton blinked rapidly and chewed on his lower lip. Beyond that, he had no reaction to the findings.
Watch the reading of the verdicts in the player below
Jackson’s family and others — including relatives of homicide victim Misty Keckler, the 18-year-old Fostoria woman Clinton strangled to death in 1997 — hugged prosecutors and police after the hearing.
Heather’s mother, Jodie Lynch, cried.
“I’m glad he’s being put to death,” Herb Lynch said. “He deserves what my poor kids went through. Torture.”
Tone will issue a written opinion when he sentences Clinton Thursday afternoon. The judge may agree with the jury’s recommendation for death, or he may decide Clinton should remain in prison for the rest of his life.