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A Toledo man recently found guilty in the asphyxiation deaths of a Springfield Township couple will not face the death penalty -- the result of a jury in Lucas County Common Pleas Court failing to agree on a sentence recommendation.
After three hours of deliberation that included the judge sending them back to try again, a jury of nine women and three men said late Monday that they could not agree on an appropriate sentencing recommendation for Samuel Williams.
The inability to decide means that the death penalty will not be a sentencing option given to Judge Dean Mandros.
Instead, the judge set an Aug. 10 sentencing date where he will impose either life in prison without parole, life with parole eligibility after 30 years, or life with parole after 25 years for the aggravated murder convictions stemming from the Jan. 30, 2011 slayings of Lisa Straub, 20, and Johnny Clarke, 21.
After a four-day trial, Williams, 24, was found guilty Friday of the two murder counts plus two counts of kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary.
The couple were found in the Springfield Township home of Ms. Straub's parents with their hands bound behind their backs and plastic bags secured around their necks with duct tape. Clarke's ankles also were bound with duct tape.
The murder charges had capital specifications attached, which led to the trial's second phase Monday.
Williams was charged with two death or aggravating specifications for each murder count: that there were two or more victims, and that the deaths occurred during the commission of a felony in which the defendant was the principal offender, or the crime was premeditated.
While jurors found Williams guilty of the first specification involving multiple victims, they found him not guilty of the second specification.
When returning to the court Monday, jurors were informed that their new role was to determine whether the aggravating circumstances of the crime outweighed any mitigating factors presented by the defense.
Six witnesses testified for the defense throughout the morning, including Williams' wife and mother, to offer insight on Williams' background and character.
Attorney John Thebes asked jurors to open their minds and hearts while considering the appropriate sentence. He asked the jurors to consider three factors including Williams' young age, his background and character, and the fact that the jury found him not guilty of being the principal offender.
"I'd suggest that this alone is enough to lead you to choose life," he said. "Think about his degree of participation. That instruction is enough to outweigh any aggravated circumstances."
Witnesses testified about Williams' upbringing without his father, and abuse in his house inflicted by his stepfather. There was also testimony about his involvement in the lives of his two sons, ages 6 and 1 1/2.
When his ex-wife, Victoria Metcalf, testified about her 6-year-old son's relationship with his father, Williams became visibly upset and began to cry.
Mr. Thebes spoke of Williams' care of his son as an indication of the kind of person he is.
"You know based on the testimony today that there is goodness in the heart of Sam Williams," he said. "…Two people are dead, regrettably, tragically.… Let's stop the death at two, two's enough."
Citing a gag order imposed by the court at the beginning of the case, both defense attorneys and assistant county prosecutors did not comment on the jury's indecision. Members of both Williams family and the family members of the victims showed little reaction while in court. They also left without comment.
Assistant Prosecutors Jeff Lingo and Rob Miller reminded jurors during closing arguments that although not an easy task, their job was to consider the evidence and if they believed the aggravating circumstances related to the deaths of Ms. Straub and Clarke outweighed evidence presented by the defense, they must return a recommendation of death.
When questioning witnesses, Mr. Lingo asked about events in Williams' life that resulted in police reports, including threatening death to his half-sister and ex-wife as well as encouraging his then-girlfriend, now wife, to prostitute herself.
Mr. Miller noted that although Williams' childhood was dysfunctional and lacked a father figure, his was not unlike many families in similar situations.
"Sam Williams made a lot of choices," he said. "There are countless people who grow up in a single-family home and who have had drug issues, but who do not go out and commit double homicide or assist in the commission of a double homicide."
Because the jury was unable to offer a recommendation, the sentence will instead be Judge Mandros' decision. In addition to life sentences for each of the two aggravated murder counts, Williams also faces up to 11 years in prison on each of the additional counts.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.