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Published: Saturday, 8/13/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Ottawa Co. man guilty of killing family members

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
William J. Liske, 25, entered guilty pleas in a barely audible voice during the hearing in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court. He shot his father, and his father’s wife, and beat his stepbrother to death. William J. Liske, 25, entered guilty pleas in a barely audible voice during the hearing in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court. He shot his father, and his father’s wife, and beat his stepbrother to death.
POOL PHOTO BY LUKE WARK/SANDUSKY REGISTER Enlarge

PORT CLINTON -- A 25-year-old man Friday confessed to a triple homicide that stunned Ottawa County last fall.

William J. Liske, who had exhibited violent and erratic behavior, was calm, subdued, and almost inaudible as he entered guilty pleas in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court on aggravated murder charges for the slayings of his father, William E. Liske, Jr., 53; his father's wife, Susan Liske, 46, and her son, Derek Griffin, 23.

Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan revealed in the courtroom that Liske shot his father in the head five times and his father's wife in the head three times, both with a 22-caliber weapon. Liske also clubbed his step-brother to death with a claw hammer, the prosecutor said as he addressed Judge Bruce Winters, who scheduled sentencing for 9 a.m. on Sept. 9.

Liske faces life in prison without parole. Had he been convicted of all charges against him, he could have been sentenced to death.

The prosecution agreed to drop firearm-specification charges in exchange for Liske's guilty pleas on the murder charges.

Mr. Mulligan summed up the prosecution's evidence while he addressed the judge immediately after Liske's pleas were recorded.

The prosecutor said Liske appeared to enter Mr. Griffin's second-floor bedroom and killed him first by striking him "three or four times" with both sides of the claw hammer. Authorities believe Liske used the claw hammer instead of a firearm so as not to alert Liske's father and stepmother. The couple were in their bedroom on the first floor.

Mr. Mulligan also said state crime lab results show Liske's semen was found on his step-mother, along with nonblood DNA evidence from the woman on boxer shorts that Liske wore at the scene.

The prosecutor did not elaborate. He declined to be interviewed afterward, citing a gag order that has been in effect.

Mr. Mulligan and defense attorneys Adrian Cimerman and John Thebes said the gag order remains in effect throughout the sentencing.

The slayings occurred in the rural home the victims shared along State Rt. 2 east of the Lucas-Ottawa County line on the night of Oct. 30 or the morning of Oct. 31.

Liske was an occasional visitor, but he was living in a Sandusky-area group home at the time.

He was arrested on Oct. 31 at the family's cottage in Carroll County, Ohio, in possession of his father's truck, wallet, cellular telephone, and 22-caliber rifle.

Mr. Mulligan did not say if the latter was the murder weapon.

Blood-stained clothes and blood from a sink where Liske attempted to clean himself were recovered. When he was arrested at the cottage, he was still wearing boxer shorts and shoes, both containing evidence tying him to the scene, the prosecutor said.

About 25 spectators listened to the hour-long proceeding in the courtroom, many weeping as details of the crime were described. Friends and family members who were there declined to comment.

The bodies were discovered Oct. 31 by Mrs. Liske's 16-year-old son, Devon Griffin, upon his return from church, where he had gone to sing in the choir.

He had spent the preceding night elsewhere.

"And that fact probably saved his life," Mr. Mulligan told the judge.

The prosecutor also revealed in court a March 19 telephone conversation that Liske had with his mother while incarcerated in the Erie County jail.

Family and friends of the slain Liske family react in court. Prosecutors Friday detailed the slayings. Family and friends of the slain Liske family react in court. Prosecutors Friday detailed the slayings.
POOL PHOTO BY LUKE WARK/SANDUSKY REGISTER Enlarge

Liske expressed dismay about an article his mother had read to him over the phone.

"You did all that stuff?" his mother asked.

"Yeah," Liske was quoted as saying.

Liske told Judge Winters he has been treated for mental problems in the past, and that he was on medication for a mental condition while entering his pleas.

He was ruled competent to stand trial in March after being evaluated first at the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Toledo, then at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare in Columbus.

Records show Liske has a long history of arrests and convictions, and that he had been at the center of domestic tensions documented at the victims' home.

His father was appointed his legal guardian in 2006 after Liske's mental illness was described as "schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type."

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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