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Murder trial testimony links defendant, weapon

TIFFIN - Testifying in the second day of Michael Magers' aggravated murder trial, a Seneca County sheriff's deputy said he saw the defendant holding a shotgun shortly after a Seneca Township man was shot to death.

Bill A. Martin, 20, was killed the night of Feb. 17 at the Hopewell Township home of Mr. Magers' estranged wife, Jodi, despite the presence of two sheriff's deputies.

Mr. Magers, 33, of Tiffin, is charged with one count of aggravated murder with a firearm specification. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 23 years.

Under questioning by county Prosecutor Ken Egbert, Jr., Sgt. William Herrig told a jury in Seneca County Common Pleas Court that he responded to a domestic violence call at the house that night.

A few minutes after he and a second deputy, Sgt. Brian Hescht, arrived at the home on U.S. 224, Sergeant Herrig said, a vehicle approached the property. Sergeant Herrig testified that a short time later, he heard a “pop” outside the west side of the structure.

Sergeant Herrig said he followed Sergeant Hescht to the home's side door to investigate, then heard a “boom-crash,” followed immediately by two gunshots. He said both deputies ran back into the home's kitchen and confronted Mr. Magers.

“A man appeared holding what appeared to be a long gun and said, `I'm done,'” Sergeant Herrig testified.

The officer said he took the gun away and handcuffed Mr. Magers.

Sergeant Herrig said Sergeant Hescht found Mr. Martin on the floor of the dining room in the rear of the house. “There were many small puncture wounds in the face, neck, and chest areas,” he testified.

The sergeant said later that night, he found four spent shotgun shells in Mrs. Magers' sport utility vehicle, near the house's back door, and in the dining room. He also testified that he saw what appeared to be shotgun blasts through a door of Mrs. Magers' vehicle and the back door of her house.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Dean Henry questioned an apparent discrepancy between Sergeant Herrig's testimony and a report he wrote three days after the shooting.

“Before lunch, you said Michael Magers told you, `I'm done,'” Mr. Henry said. At the attorney's request, Sergeant Herrig read the corresponding section of the report about Mr. Magers' statement that night.

“He said something like, `I'm finished,' or `I'm done,' or `It's over,'” the sergeant read.

During a break in testimony, Mr. Henry asked Judge Steve Shuff to exclude a five-minute recording of a 911 call from Mrs. Magers in which she reported her husband had hit her. Mr. Henry told the judge Mrs. Magers' statement on the tape that her husband's vehicle looked “like O.J. Simpson's white Bronco” would prejudice jurors against his client.

Judge Shuff rejected Mr. Henry's motion, but granted a defense request to exclude a 20-minute recording of radio traffic from the county dispatch center. Mr. Henry told the court he had not been told of the tape until yesterday morning.

“This incident occurred on the 17th of February, which means the state of Ohio has possessed this material for over four months. ... I think it's unfair to this court, and more importantly, unfair to my client,” he said.

Mr. Egbert told the judge the tape was available at the sheriff's department July 3, when Mr. Henry was there to review the 911 recording.

Testimony is to resume this morning.

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