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CTY williams26p Samuel Williams, 24, views phone records during his death penalty case. He is charged with two counts of aggravated murder and kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary in the 2011 deaths.
Samuel Williams, 24, views phone records during his death penalty case. He is charged with two counts of aggravated murder and kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary in the 2011 deaths.
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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2012

DNA evidence presented in Williams murder trial

Cause of death: Asphyxiation due to suffocation, strangulation

BY ERICA BLAKE AND JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Black duct tape wrapped around the necks of Lisa Straub and Johnny Clarke to hold plastic bags in place was so tight, it cut off the blood to their heads, and eventually their air, a deputy Lucas County coroner testified in Common Pleas Court.

Maneesha Pandey was the final state witness in the aggravated murder trial of Samuel Williams, who faces the death penalty if convicted. The 26th witness in the case, Dr. Pandey told a jury of nine women and three men on Wednesday that Ms. Straub and Clarke died of asphyxiation from suffocation and strangulation caused by a bag over their faces and tape around their necks.

Williams, 24, and co-defendant Cameo Pettaway, 23, are both charged with two counts of aggravated murder and kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary in the Jan. 30, 2011, deaths of Ms. Straub, 20, and Clarke, 21.

The two were found in the home of Ms. Straub's parents with their hands bound behind their backs and plastic bags secured tightly around their necks. Clarke's ankles also were bound with duct tape.

Lucas County Forensic Pathologist Maneesha Pandy was the final state witness during the aggravated murder trial of Samuel Williams, who faces the death penalty if convicted. The 26th witness in the case, Dr. Pandey told a jury of nine women and three men on Wednesday that both Ms. Straub and Clarke died of asphyxiation due to suffocation and strangulation caused by a bag over their faces and tape wrapped tightly around their necks. Lucas County Forensic Pathologist Maneesha Pandy was the final state witness during the aggravated murder trial of Samuel Williams, who faces the death penalty if convicted. The 26th witness in the case, Dr. Pandey told a jury of nine women and three men on Wednesday that both Ms. Straub and Clarke died of asphyxiation due to suffocation and strangulation caused by a bag over their faces and tape wrapped tightly around their necks.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Jurors in Williams' case are expected to hear closing arguments today, then proceed to deliberations. Dr. Pandey is expected to testify today during the trial of Mr. Pettaway, whose case is being heard by a jury of nine women and three men in a different courtroom.

During the third day of testimony at both trials, investigators and analysts spoke of the evidence collected at the Longacre Lane home in Springfield Township where the bodies were found.

Of all the evidence collected, a discarded cigarette butt -- and only that cigarette butt -- contained the DNA of both Williams and Mr. Pettaway, a DNA analyst said Wednesday in both courtrooms.

Cassandra Agosti, laboratory supervisor for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation's Bowling Green lab, testified that her analysis of a Newport cigarette butt found in the Straub home contained the two defendants' DNA. She also testified that the majority of DNA detected on other evidence from the scene belonged to either Ms. Straub or Clarke.

Mrs. Agosti said DNA was detected on some of the duct tape, parts of the victims' cell phones, and other items but did not match any of the nearly 90 genetic profiles submitted for comparison from suspects, witnesses, and others associated with the case.

In particular, defense attorneys pointed out that the DNA of "unknown female number one" was found on the tape and in the pockets of Clarke's pants and sweatshirt.

When questioned by Mr. Pettaway's attorney, Mark Geudtner, Mrs. Agosti said Mr. Pettaway's DNA was not found on any of the other evidence from the scene, nor could science determine when or where the DNA was deposited on an item.

Additional testimony is expected in Mr. Pettaway's case today.

After the state rested its case in Williams' trial, the defense called Sheriff's Detective Jeff Kozak as its sole witness. In response to questions from attorney John Thebes, Detective Kozak said he learned Clarke was a suspected marijuana dealer, but he did not identify his supplier. He acknowledged that of the hundreds of crime scenes he's encountered, none was similar to what he encountered at the Springfield Township home.

Mr. Thebes then questioned the detective about a statement made by Erik Yingling, who testified at Williams' trial Tuesday. Yingling, who acknowledged he had a significant criminal record involving mostly thefts, testified that Williams told him some details of the crime while the two were in the Lucas County jail in December, 2011.

Mr. Thebes recited details given by Yingling and the detective acknowledged that some of that information was provided to the public in the form of 911 calls or other court records. Detective Kozak testified that some of the information Yingling provided could not be verified through the investigation.

When questioned by Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Lingo, Detective Kozak said he interviewed hundreds of people during the investigation and while doing so, was able to eliminate many as suspects. He said he was not able to eliminate Mr. Pettaway or Williams, the only ones whose DNA was positively identified inside the home.

Detective Kozak said he also learned, from several interviews, about rumors that the Straub home had a safe containing $100,000. This was something Clarke apparently "bragged" about, he testified.

Judge Dean Mandros asked jurors hearing Williams' case to be ready to begin deliberations today. Since it is a death-penalty case, jurors will be sequestered from the start of deliberations until a verdict is reached.

If Williams is found guilty, a second trial phase will begin, during which jurors will decide whether to recommend a death sentence.

Mr. Pettaway does not face the death penalty. Judge James Bates ruled before his trial's start that he meets the legal definition of mentally retarded, making him ineligible to be condemned if convicted.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.


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