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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2003

Slaying trial begins for Monroe St. man

A Toledo man accused of killing a 61-year-old woman during a robbery at her South Toledo home tried earlier that day to steal the purse of another woman, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor told a Common Pleas Court jury yesterday.

Timothy Westrick, the assistant prosecutor, said the victims, Mary Lou Reilly and Susan Rufenacht, were doing errands March 30, 2002, in preparation for the next day s Easter celebration when Gregory M. Hicks accosted them in their homes.

“But only one of them will be around the next day on Easter Sunday,” Mr. Westrick said.

Hicks, 36, of 2750 Monroe St., is on trial for the aggravated murder of Mrs. Reilly. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Mrs. Reilly was beaten and choked at 230 Walbridge Ave. about 45 minutes after Hicks is accused of breaking into Ms. Rufenacht s home in the 900 block of South Avenue.

Mr. Westrick said Ms. Rufenacht was taking groceries from her car into the house when Hicks confronted her in the living room and demanded money. Her purse was in the house, but she told the intruder that she left it in her car.

When the intruder went to retrieve the purse, Ms. Rufenacht, 48, activated the alarm on her home-security system to call 911. Mr. Westrick said Hicks threw a concrete block into a glass door and fled on foot.

Within an hour, Mrs. Reilly was found dead in the living room of her home by her mother. Her death initially was believed to have been due to natural causes, but that changed after relatives noticed that her purse was missing.

Mr. Westrick said neighbors who saw the defendant driving away from Ms. Rufenacht s home got the license plate number on his car. Hicks was arrested later that day. He admitted his involvement in both crimes and showed police where he had dumped Mrs. Reilly s purse and other items, Mr. Westrick said.

After opening arguments, the jurors were taken to the houses where the crimes occurred.

Judge Patrick Foley is presiding over the trial. The panel also will decide whether Hicks is guilty of two counts each of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery for the incidents at the victims homes.

Myron Duhart, an attorney for Hicks, said the statement his client gave police came after nine hours of interrogation and was formulated through a “road map” provided by police.

Mr. Duhart told the panel an expert witness who analyzed blood found on a Social Security statement taken from Mrs. Reilly s home will testify that the DNA does not belong to Hicks.

“There is no scientific evidence that links Gregory Hicks to the death of Mary Lou Reilly or the robbery of her home,” Mr. Duhart said.

The jury will begin hearing evidence tomorrow. The court is closed today because of the observance of Veterans Day.



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