Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Witnesses attempt to save slayer from death penalty




FREMONT - A three-judge panel is to convene today to decide the fate of a Marblehead, Ohio, man convicted of murdering his former girlfriend and her friend nearly two years ago.

Jeffrey Zenowicz, 35, could be sentenced to death; he was found guilty in March on four counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, and one count each of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and attempted aggravated arson after a trial before Sandusky County Common Pleas Court Judges Harry Sargeant, Jr., and James Sherck, and 6th District Court of Appeals Court Judge Richard Knepper.

He slashed the throat of Leslie Slone, 30, and drowned Claudia Fonseca, 40, in a bathtub inside her home July 3, 2004.

Yesterday, defense attorneys working to spare Zenowicz's life called four witnesses to the stand, including two psychologists who said Zenowicz suffered from aggressive, impulsive behavior.

Thomas Boyd, a Beechwood, Ohio, neuropsychologist, said he found evidence Zenowicz suffered from a neuropsychological impairment consistent with patients who sustain injuries to the frontal lobe of their brains. Mr. Boyd said he didn't know for sure how or when Zenowicz developed the impairment but said a series of head injuries, a suicide attempt at age 10, and a high school practice of inhaling gasoline fumes could have been contributing factors.

Among the symptoms, Mr. Boyd said, were impulsiveness and difficulty with attention, concentration, and decision-making. He said Zenowicz suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and intermittent explosive disorder.

"All the problems I found would be heightened or made worse under conditions where he was emotionally aroused or upset," Mr. Boyd said.

When Zenowicz arrived at Ms. Fonseca's house on the night she was killed, he peered through a window and saw her with a male he did not know. Mr. Boyd said Zenowicz assumed the two were having a relationship, and he exploded, killing both of them.

Assistant Sandusky County Prosecutor John Kolesar pointed out that Zenowicz's marriage ended in divorce, but it didn't end in murder.

Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt also reviewed a number of incidents involving Zenowicz in which he apparently did not react violently, including an incident in which his ex-wife pushed him and a landlord-tenant dispute.

Mr. Boyd said intermittent explosive disorder is just that: intermittent.

"It doesn't happen every time," Mr. Boyd said. "But when it happens, it's excessive."

Bob Stinson, a forensic psychologist who evaluated Zenowicz, diagnosed impulse control disorder, which he said was consistent with Mr. Boyd's findings.

Also taking the stand was Zenowicz's former mother-in-law, Pat Blankenship of Marion, Ohio who said Zenowicz was a good father to his sons, J.J., 13, and Walter, 12. Zenowicz was awarded full custody of the two boys after his divorce from Mrs. Blankenship's daughter, Heidi, and maintained custody of them until he was arrested for the murders, she said.

Jennifer Bickley, who worked with Zenowicz at Fremont Plastics, testified that he was an easygoing guy and a good worker. Ms. Bickley said Zenowicz talked about his sons all the time, and she recalled that he was in love with Ms. Fonseca.

Closing arguments are set for 9 a.m. followed by the panel's deliberations.

The judges could sentence him to death, life without the parole, or life with eligibility for parole after 30 or 25 years.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.

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