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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

Taft delays Spirko execution until July 19


COLUMBUS Gov. Bob Taft today delayed for the third time the execution of man who says he s innocent of a 1982 murder to allow more time for DNA testing.

Attorney General Jim Petro last week asked Taft to delay John Spirko s execution, set for Jan. 19, by six months to allow for the testing requested by Spirko s lawyers. Taft s reprieve sets the new date for July 19.

Spirko, 59, was convicted of killing Betty Jane Mottinger, the postmistress in Elgin in northwest Ohio. She was abducted and repeatedly stabbed, then wrapped in a tarp and dumped in a field. Her body was found three weeks later.

Petro says his office needs time to test hairs found on duct tape wrapped around the tarp that contained Mottinger s body.

He says his office also will need time to find other potential suspects including some whose names came up earlier in the case if the hairs are found to come from someone other than Spirko or Mottinger. Some of the previous suspects live out of state and Ohio may need court orders to demand tests.

In November, Taft granted Spirko a 60-day reprieve at the request of Petro, who said he needed that long to test several items that Spirko s attorneys want reviewed.

In September, Taft delayed Spirko s scheduled Sept. 20 execution to look into whether prosecutors presented inaccurate information at his clemency hearing in August.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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