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Published: Wednesday, 3/1/2006

Forensic experts say evidence links suspect to 2004 slayings

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jeffrey Zenowicz, left, and one of his attorneys, Jeff Helmick, listen to evidence at Mr. Zenowicz's trial. Jeffrey Zenowicz, left, and one of his attorneys, Jeff Helmick, listen to evidence at Mr. Zenowicz's trial.
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FREMONT - Forensic scientists yesterday said fingerprints and DNA evidence link a Marblehead, Ohio, man to the July, 2004, slayings of his former girlfriend and a Fremont man.

In a taped deposition played before a three-judge panel in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, Stacy Violi of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation said she found the DNA of victim Leslie Slone, 30, on a knife believed to have been used to cut his throat, and the DNA of Claudia Fonseca, 40, on a cutting of a blood-stained T-shirt.

Ms. Violi said she found the DNA of defendant Jeffrey Zenowicz on the right fingernails of Ms. Fonseca, who prosecutors say was drowned in her bathtub when Mr. Zenowicz, 35, lay on top of her to kill her. He is charged with four counts of aggravated murder and five other felonies, including attempted aggravated arson for trying to set Ms. Fonseca's house on fire after killing the pair.

Mr. Zenowicz, a burly, bald man, could be sentenced to death if he is found guilty of the murders.

In the second day of testimony, prosecutors called a series of authorities to the stand who had handled and analyzed the evidence taken from Ms. Fonseca's Rice Township home and from the defendant's mother's home in Danbury Township where he was staying at the time.

Ms. Violi testified that a mixture of Ms. Fonseca's and Mr. Zenowicz's DNA was found on a blood sample from his left tennis shoe taken from his bedroom and on a Pepsi can found at the crime scene.

Todd Wharton, another forensic scientist with BCI, said he found multiple fingerprints matching Mr. Zenowicz's on a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid and a hurricane lamp taken from the scene. He also lifted one of the defendant's prints from the Pepsi can, but upon cross-examination said he could not determine how long the prints had been on the items.

Authorities said Mr. Zenowicz confessed to the killings during a lengthy videotaped interview with investigators several hours after the bodies were discovered. Defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have the statements thrown out.

Yesterday afternoon, the court heard the first hour of the interview, which took place at the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office in Port Clinton after investigators went to Mr. Zenowicz's mother's house in Danbury Township and asked if he would talk to them about Ms. Fonseca.

Detective Capt. James Consolo testified that Mr. Zenowicz agreed to allow detectives to search his vehicle and bedroom and said he "had no problem" going to the sheriff's office to talk about his relationship with Ms. Fonseca.

During the initial part of the conversation with Captain Consolo, Mr. Zenowicz said he met Ms. Fonseca about a year earlier and began seeing her a month or two later. He and his two sons, ages 10 and 11, moved in with her at the Rice Township home owned by her brother in late January or early February, 2004.

He said they had "little spats" over bills, her bar-hopping, and differences with her father, Gil, a deputy with the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office.

He moved out after an incident in May when she gave him a black eye, and he was arrested for domestic violence.

Mr. Zenowicz claimed the two continued to see each other, though, and talked of getting engaged July 4. "I loved her to death," he said repeatedly.

The trial is to resume at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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