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Published: Monday, 7/16/2012

Judge Bates to rule Tuesday on murder suspect's mental state


Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates said he will decide Tuesday whether an East Toledo man charged in the asphyxiation deaths of a Springfield Township couple is mentally disabled.

His finding will determine whether or not Cameo Pettaway, 23, of 133 Essex St., could be sentenced to death if found guilty of the murders of Lisa Straub, 20, and her boyfriend, Johnny Clarke, 21.

Judge Bates heard testimony Monday from John Matthew Fabian, a forensic psychologist who found through testing, interviews, and examination of school and medical records that Mr. Pettaway is mildly mentally retarded. Charlene Cassel, a clinical psychologist with the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center also testified, saying the tests she conducted and an interview with Mr. Pettaway led her to determine he is not mentally retarded.

Judge Bates said he would announce his decision at 1 p.m. Tuesday before jury selection is scheduled to begin in Mr. Pettaway’s case.

Mr. Pettaway and co-defendant Samuel Williams, 24, of 1626 Kelsey Ave., are charged with two counts of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated burglary, and two counts of kidnapping stemming from the Jan. 31, 2011 deaths of Ms. Straub and Clarke. The two victims were found dead in Ms. Straub’s parents’ Longacre Lane home, and autopsies showed both had died from asphyxiation. Parts of the home had been ransacked.

Attorneys for Mr. Pettaway had argued that their client was ineligible for the death penalty because he is developmentally disabled. Executing a person with developmental disabilities was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002, although the high court left it to death-penalty states to define developmentally disabled in this context.

In December, 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the definition requires “(1) significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, (2) significant limitations in two or more adaptive skills, such as communication, self-care, and self-direction, and (3) onset before the age of 18.”

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