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Published: 7/13/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

New trial promised in 14-year-old's slaying in 1985

1st proceeding ended in deadlocked jury

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lori Ann Hill was the subject of a candlelight vigil in October, 2010, at the Fulton County Courthouse in Wauseon. Miss Hill was a freshman at Swanton High School when she was beaten to death. Lori Ann Hill was the subject of a candlelight vigil in October, 2010, at the Fulton County Courthouse in Wauseon. Miss Hill was a freshman at Swanton High School when she was beaten to death.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

WAUSEON — Rachel Hill Barton was gratified to learn Friday that Fulton County Prosecutor Scott Haselman would retry a former Maumee man accused of her sister's 1985 murder.

"I'm very, very excited," she said after meeting with the prosecutor. "This is the right thing to do for Lori."

Lori Ann Hill was 14 and a freshman at Swanton High School in the fall of 1985 when she was beaten to death and her body was left in a wooded area north of Wauseon. No one was charged with the slaying until 2009, when Miss Hill's former boyfriend Walter E. Zimbeck II was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury for aggravated murder and murder.

Fulton County Common Pleas Judge James Barber threw out the charges, but the 6th District Court of Appeals reinstated them, and Mr. Zimbeck, 45, of Strawberry Plains, Tenn., went on trial June 18.

After the defense rested its case, visiting Judge Sumner Walters dismissed the aggravated murder charge, but the jury, after nearly 11 hours of deliberations, was deadlocked on the murder charge. The seven men and five women could not reach a unanimous verdict, and visiting Judge Sumner Walters declared a mistrial.

At a pretrial hearing in the judge's chambers Friday, Mr. Haselman informed the court he intended to re-try Mr. Zimbeck on the murder charge.

The court scheduled a two-week jury trial for Sept. 17. A pretrial hearing was set for Sept. 11.

Mr. Zimbeck remains free on bond but must stay in Ohio and wear an electronic ankle monitor.

Mr. Haselman declined to comment afterward on his reasons for seeking a second trial.

Defense attorneys Gregory and Amber VanGunten did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mrs. Barton said Friday she was "absolutely floored" by the mistrial, although she understood better after she was told about some of the issues jurors had with the case.

"One said she was not going to decide another man's life. One had it in bad for Toledo police," she said.

Mrs. Barton said she was impressed with the investigative work done by the Toledo-Lucas County cold-case unit, which agreed to reopen the case in 2008. She also gave Mr. Haselman credit for taking it on all these years later.

"I am grateful to Prosecutor Haselman," she said. "He has done more for Lori than anyone else in Fulton County ever had."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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