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Published: Thursday, 7/13/2006

Jury to visit scene of '91 Northwood murder

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Doren Doren
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BOWLING GREEN - Fifteen years after the brutal slaying of Deana Meeks, jurors hearing the case against her accused killer were to travel to Northwood this morning to see the Lester Avenue house where she was found with her throat cut.

"This is a case of greed - greed which on June 7, 1991, left 19-year-old Deana Meeks dead in her home lying face-down in a pool of her own blood in a ransacked house," Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson told the jury yesterday in Wood County Common Pleas Court.

He said witnesses would corroborate the prosecution's contention that Ralph Doren went to the home of Boyd "Smitty" Smith that afternoon with the intention of stealing valuables he knew Mr. Smith kept in the house but ended up killing Miss Meeks when she discovered what he was doing. Mr. Smith and Doren had at one time worked together at a Sylvania auto dealership, Mr. Dobson said.

Doren, 56, is charged with the aggravated murder of Miss Meeks, who both prosecutors and defense attorneys portrayed as an innocent victim.

"There were a lot of unsavory characters surrounding this whole family," defense attorney Scott Hicks told the jury. "Deana was certainly the most innocent."

For many of the years since the homicide, Doren has been in a Michigan prison serving a 30-to-60-year sentence for an unrelated 1993 criminal sexual conduct conviction.

He was indicted by a Wood County grand jury in October, 2004, for aggravated murder with two death-penalty specifications, but those specifications were dismissed by Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey last month at the prosecutor's request. A jury was seated yesterday afternoon after a day and a half of interviews by the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorneys.

Mr. Dobson told jurors that the witnesses who will be taking the stand include three men who were in prison with Doren. They will testify that Doren told them Miss Meeks took him by surprise when he was burglarizing Mr. Smith's house and he killed her, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Hicks cautioned the jury to consider the witnesses' motives, to set their own sympathies aside, and to focus on the evidence presented.

From the crime scene, he said, investigators found no DNA, no fingerprints or footprints, no evidence of sexual assault, or any eyewitnesses to link Doren to the homicide.

Mr. Dobson conceded that the crime scene revealed little about the killer.

"This is a puzzle," Mr. Dobson said. "I told you there is no smoking gun, no blood-stained knife There is no single piece of evidence that we, the state, will bring you that you will make you say, 'Ah-hah, because of that one piece of evidence, Ralph Doren is guilty of the murder of Deana Meeks.' "

He said Doren will connect himself to the crime scene.

Mr. Dobson said that in 1997, Doren tried to make a deal with investigators under which he would reveal the killer's identity if he could be immediately released from prison.

As proof of his knowledge of the crime, he led them to a wooded area where some items stolen from Mr. Smith's house in 1991, including jewelry and coins, had been scattered.

Although the information provided the first physical evidence from the crime scene, Mr. Dobson said, Doren never provided the name of the alleged killer and the investigation eventually focused on him. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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