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Published: 4/6/2005

Murder trial in Defiance focuses on girlfriend

DEFIANCE - Rex Allan Kuhn, accused of murdering a Defiance bartender last year during an argument over a woman, was described by the Defiance County prosecutor in court yesterday as being infatuated with the bartender's girlfriend.

Mr. Kuhn's attorney, however, told the Defiance County Common Pleas Court jury that the bartender, Cyrus Tyler Oelke, had broken up with his girlfriend - upsetting her greatly - about a week before he died.

He warned the jury in his opening statement to carefully consider the testimony of the girlfriend, Margaret Mays Williams - who called authorities about Mr. Oelke the night he died - when they hear it in the murder trial of Mr. Kuhn.

"She is involved in this case to some greater extent than we all know," Mr. Kuhn's attorney, Bill Kluge, said in the trial which began yesterday.

Mr. Kuhn, 45, of near Defiance, whom his attorney described as a very simple man, is charged with aggravated murder with a firearms specification, murder with a firearms specification, tampering with evidence, and possession of cocaine.

County Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh said Mr. Kuhn shot and killed Mr. Oelke - with Mr. Oelke's gun - in a wooded area at 21270 Switzer Rd., near Defiance, where Mr. Oelke, 37, lived in a motor home.

The shooting happened, he said, after Mr. Kuhn and Mr. Oelke, who were both single, gathered wood for a campfire, drank beer together, and started talking about Ms. Williams. At the time, she was a bartender and pizza cook at Lu-Jo's Pizza in Sherwood, Ohio, in south central Defiance County, where both men were earlier that night.

The prosecutor said Ms. Williams treated Mr. Kuhn, who was a regular, with kindness and had even cut his hair. But he said that shortly before Mr. Oelke died, Mr. Kuhn appeared to grow infatuated with Ms. Williams, mistakenly interpreting her attention as love.

"The problem with Margaret Mays was she was seeing another man, Cyrus Tyler Oelke," the prosecutor said.

When he was first questioned about the murder, Mr. Kuhn denied that he had been at Mr. Oelke's home, but said Mr. Oelke made a hand gesture to him when he left Lu-Jo's that night and that angered him, the prosecutor said.

Later, Mr. Kuhn told authorities he pointed Mr. Oelke's gun at him, asked him how he liked having the gun pointed at him, and pulled the trigger, shooting him in the chest, the prosecutor said. When authorities searched Mr. Kuhn's home, they found cocaine, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Kuhn's attorney said Ms. Williams directed investigators to Mr. Kuhn.

The night of the murder, she stopped at Mr. Oelke's place after leaving Lu-Jo's and was at the crime scene for some time before authorities arrived, he said.

Both the prosecutor and Mr. Kuhn's attorney said Mr. Kuhn has a very obvious speech problem. Mr. Kuhn's attorney added that his client has an IQ of about 75 and was able to live alone only with the help of his family who checked in on him.

That has made Mr. Kuhn an easy target throughout his life, his attorney said.

"He couldn't defend himself verbally," his attorney said. "Anything he did say didn't come out right."

He went on to say that Mr. Kuhn is mentally unable to contrive a story to tell police - even if he had to.

"Rex Kuhn is no murderer," his attorney said. "He is a victim of circumstances."



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