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Published: Saturday, 5/21/2005

Jury says murderer should be executed

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury last night recommended that James Frazier be put to death for killing a 49-year-old disabled woman in the Northgate Apartments.

Frazier, 64, stood silent and showed no expression as the recommendation was read, just as he did when the jurors convicted him on Wednesday in the aggravated murder of Mary Stevenson.

The jury, which also found Frazier guilty of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, deliberated for about five hours before deciding that Frazier should be put to death.

Frazier killed Ms. Stevenson on March 2, 2004, in her first-floor apartment of the Northgate Apartments, 610 Stickney Ave., during a robbery.

Ms. Stevenson, who had cerebral palsy, was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of her bedroom. She was strangled and her throat was slashed with a bread knife from a cutlery set that was in her kitchen.

An autopsy also showed that Ms. Stevenson was sexually assaulted, but Frazier, who lived on the first floor of the 10-story building, was not charged with rape.

The victim s brother, Roy Stevenson, and his wife, Janet, held hands with family members of Bill Gangway, who dated Ms. Stevenson, and the close-knit friends smiled calmly with satisfaction when the jury s decision was announced.

After they left the courtroom, Mr. Stevenson said the jury made the appropriate choice given the manner and circumstances in which his sister was killed. God answered our prayers. But, he will have to go before judgment with God, he said.

Mr. Gangway was not present in the courtroom for the verdict, but his brother, Timothy Gangway, said the death sentence was deserved. He didn t give Mary a choice. I have no problems with the sentence he received, he said.

The jury also had the option of recommending life in prison without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 or 30 years.

Judge Denise Ann Dartt will sentence Frazier on June 15, when she could affirm the jury s recommendation or reject it and impose one of the other sentences.

In yesterday s death-penalty phase, Mark Berling, one of Frazier s attorneys, asked the jurors to consider his client s age and that a life sentence would result in him dying in prison.

Frazier, who is also facing maximum 10-year sentences each for aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, would not be eligible for parole for 45 years if given the most lenient punishment.

Jeffrey Smalldon, a Columbus psychologist who interviewed Frazier and reviewed records on his life, testified that he believed the defendant was borderline mildly mentally retarded and has a personality disorder.

Mr. Berling said he was disappointed, but said the lengthy deliberation showed the jurors considered the mitigating factors seriously.

Obviously the jury had a real tough time wrestling with the issues we provided them to consider, he said. But I guess they felt this is what they had to do.

Testimony during Frazier s trial showed that he had been smoking crack cocaine in his apartment with others in the hours before Ms. Stevenson was killed.

Assistant prosecutor Tim Braun told the jurors yesterday that Frazier wanted money to buy more drugs and picked a much weaker person to rob and kill.

Mr. Braun said later that the crime was disturbing because Ms. Stevenson was one of the most helpless members of society.

It is disturbing because of the way she was murdered, he said.

The real hard part is that she was helpless and was unable to defend herself.

Contact Mark Reiter at:mreiter@theblade.comor 419-213-4123.



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