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Tyler convicted in neighbor's beating death

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Tyler

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Kelvin Tyler was found guilty yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for the brutal beating death of his 75-year-old neighbor during a robbery at her South Toledo apartment complex.

Tyler stood stoically and showed no emotion as a jury found him guilty of aggravated murder in the slaying of Rubie Petterson, who lived for two weeks after being assaulted in her apartment in Flory Gardens.

Tyler, 50, who lived down the hall from the elderly woman, also was convicted of death penalty specifications in the murder charge along with one count each of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery.

Judge Gary Cook, who is presiding over the trial that began last week, told the jury to return to the courtroom at 9 this morning to begin the mitigation phase that will decide whether Tyler gets the death penalty.

The jury's options also include recommending that he serve life in prison without eligibility for parole, or 25 or 30-year sentences.

The jury of 10 women and two men was sequestered Wednesday night in a hotel. Judge Cook sent the panel home until the sentencing phase.

Tyler didn't take the witness stand during his four-day trial, but it was his own words that may have weighed heavily against him.

In deference to statements he made to police in the days after the assault, Tyler admitted to police in a videotaped interview in June to burglarizing the victim's apartment, where he said he found the brutally beaten woman under a couch.

Tyler said he entered the victim's home through a covered opening where an air conditioner would have been installed, and saw her in the ransacked apartment but failed to call for help. He denied beating her.

The prosecution's case was bolstered by physical evidence, including the defendant's DNA on an antacid bottle and his fingerprints on a wall and an envelope tossed during the burglary from the victim's purse.

Jeff Lingo, one of the assistant prosecutors who tried the case, said the length of the time that the jury put into deliberations showed that they carefully and objectively took into consideration all the testimony and evidence.

"Obviously, we are pleased. They reached what we believe were the appropriate verdicts," he said.

Tyler's defense attorneys, Mark Geudtner and Merle Dech, didn't want to comment about the verdicts or provide information on their strategy to sway jurors into saving the defendant's life.

To impose death, the jury must find that the circumstances of the crime outweigh any mitigating factors that favor the defendant.

If the jury recommends death, Judge Cook will review the verdict and can either impose the penalty or sentence Tyler to life in prison.

Of the hundreds of capital cases that have gone to trial in the state since the 1980s, only seven death verdicts rendered by juries have been reversed by trial judges.

The father of a 9-year-old boy and an admitted crack-addict, Tyler lived down the hall from Ms. Petterson in the housing complex on Nebraska Avenue near Byrne Road.

He was arrested a week after the assault and days before Ms. Petterson died on May 2, 2005, in University Medical Center.

The verdicts on the three counts came about 2 1/2 hours after the jurors told the court they were deadlocked on the aggravated murder charge and couldn't reach a verdict.

Judge Cook heard arguments on a motion from Tyler's attorneys to declare a mistrial, but the judge denied the request.

The jury returned to the courtroom, Judge Cook gave them additional instructions, and he asked them to continue deliberating to reach a decision.

About two hours later, they did.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.

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