COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously upheld the murder convictions and death sentence of Wayne Powell for the 2006 Toledo house fire that killed four people, including two children.
The court, in weighing his sentence, considered Powell’s past growing up in a dysfunctional family as well as his history of drug and alcohol abuse, but in the end found that none of it could outweigh what he did.
“Powell set fire to a home in the middle of the night,” wrote Justice Paul Pfeifer. “Eight people were inside the home at the time of the fire, including five children and a disabled woman.
“Powell knew that people were inside the home when he started the fire, because he had been there earlier in the evening,” he wrote. “Four people, including two children, died during the fire. These facts establish a senseless, horrific crime that lacks any mitigating features.”
The fire at 814 St. John Ave. in the early morning of Nov. 11, 2006, killed Powell’s 33-year-old former girlfriend, Mary Rose McCollum; her 52-year-old ailing mother, Rosemary; her 4-year-old son, Jamal McCollum-Myers; and 3-year-old niece, Sanaa’ Thomas.
The jury had agreed with the prosecution that Powell followed through with prior threats to burn the house by pouring gasoline through a crack in a door and then setting the blaze while the victims and several others slept inside.
The court did not accept claims of ineffectiveness of counsel.
It did agree that the jury should not have been shown a video tape of Powell’s brother, Isaac, telling police his brother had admitted to pouring gasoline onto the side of the house. Isaac Powell testified during the trial that he couldn’t recall such a statement.
But of those areas where the court agreed that error had occurred in the trial, it found the errors to be “harmless errors” that wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the case.
Powell, 46, is on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution. He still has a round of federal appeals available to him.