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Published: Tuesday, 11/18/2003

No verdict reached in Hicks trial

Jurors hearing the death-penalty trial of Gregory M. Hicks, who is accused in the murder of a 61-year-old South Toledo woman, were unable to reach a verdict yesterday.

The Lucas County Common Pleas jury will resume deliberations today in the case in which Hicks, 36, is accused in the beating and strangulation of Mary Lou Reilly on March 30, 2002, in her home at 230 Walbridge Ave.

The jurors deliberated for about five hours before breaking at 6 p.m. They were sequestered in a hotel last night.

If the panel finds Hicks guilty of the murder, a second phase of the trial will determine whether he should be sentenced to death by injection.

Hicks, of 2750 Monroe St., did not take the stand. He also is charged with aggravated burglary for allegedly entering the home of a woman in the 900 block of South Avenue about 45 minutes before Mrs. Reilly was killed.

Yesterday, Hicks attorney, John Thebes, called two Toledo firefighters to the stand to question them about the condition of Mrs. Reilly s body when they arrived at her house.

Authorities initially believed her death was from natural causes, and did not treat the house as a crime scene. The direction of the investigation changed after relatives could not locate the victim s purse.

Sally Fitch, a firefighter who was assigned that day to the station on South Avenue, testified that she did not check the body for signs of rigor mortis, which would have indicated when the victim died.

In closing arguments, prosecutors stressed to the jurors that Hicks admitted to police that he saw Mrs. Reilly alone outside her house when she was changing the decorative outfit on a concrete goose.

Timothy Westrick, an assistant prosecutor, said the defendant confessed to seeing the woman outside alone, and then parking his car around the corner, going to the house, and looking behind her to see if anyone was in the house when she answered the door.

“The evidence points to the defendant. [Hicks] points to himself through his admissions,” Mr. Westrick said.

Detectives testified that Hicks admitted to grabbing Mrs. Reilly by her shoulder, throwing her to the floor, going into the living room, and grabbing the victim s purse.

Finding no money in the purse, the detectives said, Hicks dumped its contents as he drove near Emerald Avenue and Vinton Street. He later took police to the location, where they recovered the victim s Social Security statement and cosmetic items.

Dr. Diane Barnett, a Lucas County deputy coroner, testified that the muscles in Mrs. Reilly s necked were ruptured in the strangulation and the killer likely attacked her from behind in a chokehold.

About five hours after Mrs. Reilly s murder, police arrested Hicks for the break-in at Susan Rufenacht s home on South, about eight blocks from Mrs. Reilly s home. Ms. Rufenacht testified she confronted the defendant when he walked into her home while she was bringing groceries from her car.

Mr. Thebes told the jury during his closing arguments that the investigation was flawed and police were unable to produce physical evidence that would place Hicks in the house when the murder occurred.

He said Hick s fingerprints or shoe marks were not found in the house, and fibers from the victim s clothing were not found on Hicks.

“What do we have that links this man to this capital case” Mr. Thebes asked the panel. “There is not one shred of physical or forensic evidence that ties this man to this crime.”

Judge Patrick Foley is presiding over the trial.



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