Marysue Webb prized the photo album her daughter sent her that chronicled some of the best moments of her troubled life.
Prosecutors say Ms. Webb's murder at the hands of Thomas Sloniker, Jr., just days later kept her from adding future triumphs to it, despite an alcohol problem that left her occasionally homeless.
Sloniker, 26, who had no permanent address, was found guilty by a three-judge panel after entering a plea of no contest yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to the 1999 aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.
A plea agreement calls for him to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Even though he entered a plea in the case, prosecutors still have to present evidence before a three-judge panel because they initially sought the death penalty.
Sloniker's attorneys, Mark Berling and Arnold Gottlieb, are expected to tell the judges today why their client should receive a life sentence and not the death penalty.
Police said Sloniker killed Ms. Webb, 54, by beating and strangling her near Arlington and Detroit avenues. Two boys fishing with their father discovered the body on Oct. 31, 1999, behind Waterford Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center along Garden Lake Parkway.
Sloniker was seen carrying beer and going off into a patch of woods near the pond with Ms. Webb on Oct. 29, 1999, according to testimony.
The defendant was linked to the murder when Ms. Webb's purse was found next door to his sister's home Oct. 31, 1999. His sister, Tammy Krueger, testified that the police were called after she determined the owner of the purse was the victim written about in a Blade article.
When the police arrived, Ms. Krueger realized that she had seen Ms. Webb a few days before in a photo album Sloniker had brought to her home. Sloniker had told her a friend gave it to him.
Sloniker later told police he drank beer with Ms. Webb, but she was alive when he left her. But Kevin Carder, an assistant county prosecutor, said DNA tests revealed that blood on Sloniker's shoes was Ms. Webb's.
The photo album was the subject of early testimony yesterday because it not only tied Sloniker to the crime, but depicted a talented woman before alcoholism upended her world.
Frederick Dauer, Ms. Webb's ex-husband, testified that his wife was a former high school teacher who was a talented dancer and mime.
He said Ms. Webb's alcohol abuse ended their marriage in 1989, but they remained friends because they had a son together.
Mr. Dauer said Ms. Webb stopped by a few days before her death and picked up a photo album that her daughter, Suzanne Webb, sent to her.
Mr. Dauer, clearly still saddened by his ex-wife's murder, testified that the album featured pictures of her children and her days when she danced as a Rockette at the University of Toledo and performed in vaudeville shows.
“She was overjoyed remembering some of the things she had done in her life,” Mr. Dauer said.
Suzanne Webb, who lives in Los Angeles, testified she sent her mother the photo album to showcase “her talents and beauty” and to remind her what she had done and still could do.
“My purpose of the photo album was to give my mom memories of happier times,” she Webb said.
Her mother, a former disc jockey at WSPD-AM 1370, taught at Cardinal Stritch and Central Catholic high schools.
But alcoholism apparently led to hard times. In his opening statement, Mr. Carder told the three judges that Ms. Webb was a talented person whose life was cut short by Sloniker.
“She appeared to be a success at just about everything she attempted in life,” Mr. Carder said. “However, one problem which helped defeat all she accomplished over a period of time is that she developed a serious problem with alcohol.”
Hearing the case are Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Robert Christiansen and visiting Common Pleas Judges Robert Pollex from Wood County and Joseph Schmenk from Defiance County.