WAUSEON -- A longtime friend of Walter Zimbeck testified Tuesday that Mr. Zimbeck came home with blood on his pants and coat the night Lori Ann Hill went missing.
In the sixth day of testimony in Mr. Zimbeck's trial for aggravated murder and murder in the 1985 beating death of Miss Hill, Keith Chapman said he had spent the night at Mr. Zimbeck's Maumee apartment and was there when Mr. Zimbeck came home Oct. 25, 1985, bloodied and scratched on the neck from what Mr. Zimbeck told him was a fight outside a South Toledo bar.
"He was just standing there. He had his head down and everything," Mr. Chapman told the jury in Fulton County Common Pleas Court. "He had been drinking, but he wasn't drunk. He was coherent."
Mr. Chapman's testimony did not jibe with earlier testimony from Mr. Zimbeck's mother, who said she did not recall seeing Mr. Chapman at the apartment or sleeping on the floor of her son's bedroom that night.
Carol Behrens said her son had received a phone call earlier that evening and told her he was going out to see Miss Hill. Miss Hill called later on, crying, upset, and looking for Mr. Zimbeck, she said.
Mrs. Behrens said she did not know when her son came home that night, but she recalled going to his room after he got a late-night phone call and finding him sitting on the floor, while a woman she did not know was sitting on the bed.
"The only girl I saw that night was the one I saw in my son's bedroom when I went to tell him he had a phone call," she said.
Mr. Zimbeck allegedly told investigators at the time that he was with a girl named Sandy that night. Cold-case investigators who reopened Miss Hill's murder investigation in 2008 tracked down Sandy Keller, who also took the stand Tuesday.
She told the jury she met Mr. Zimbeck at the former Southwyck Mall when she was 18 and went out with him a couple of times. Ms. Keller said she could not say for sure whether she was with Mr. Zimbeck the night Miss Hill disappeared, but she did describe an evening at his apartment that was very similar to what his mother had described in her testimony.
"Walt was sitting on the floor. I was sitting on the bed," she said under cross-examination by defense attorney Amber VanGunten. "[His mother] came to the door. Something was said."
Some time after Miss Hill's body was found in a wooded area north of Wauseon, Ms. Keller said, Mr. Zimbeck called her and told her his former girlfriend had been killed. She said he was crying and upset. He told her she was his alibi.
"Did you have any reason to doubt him?" Ms. VanGunten asked Ms. Keller during cross-examination.
"No," she replied.
Prosecutors played a recording of a phone conversation that cold-case investigators asked Ms. Keller to make to Mr. Zimbeck in 2009. In it, he tells her she is "probably the only living person who knows where I was" the night Miss Hill was murdered. She tells him she can't remember being with him that night.
"I wish you remembered," Mr. Zimbeck says on the tape. "You could sure help me."
Earlier in the day, Shawn Weiss, a technician for Lab Corp. testified that he analyzed DNA evidence from pubic hair taken from Miss Hill in 1985. Although largely deteriorated when he did the testing in 2009, none of the samples matched Mr. Zimbeck's DNA, Mr. Weiss said.
Prosecutors contend that Mr. Zimbeck killed Miss Hill after she broke up with him, but the defense says the state has little if any evidence to support that theory. They repeatedly accused cold-case investigators of refreshing witnesses' memories for them.
Mr. Chapman told the jury he had accompanied Mr. Zimbeck to Miss Hill's house prior to her death and was present when she told Mr. Zimbeck she didn't want to date him because there was another man she wanted to see.
"She seemed like an adult," he recalled. "For 14 years old, that girl seemed like she knew exactly what she wanted."
Mr. Chapman was still being cross-examined by defense attorney Gregory VanGunten when visiting Judge Sumner Walters called a recess for the day. The trial, which is expected to last for at least three weeks, is to resume at 9 a.m. today.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6129.