More than 13 years after the body of Evelyn Rivers was found in a North Toledo park and three days after the murder trial began for the man accused in her strangulation death, the job of sorting out what happened May 17, 1995, is in the hands of Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Doneghy.
He is expected to render his verdict today. If convicted, Dean Randleman faces up to life in prison.
The judge heard testimony from 14 witnesses, including some of the original investigating officers, about the final day in Ms. Rivers' life and the discovery of her body.
Randleman, 54, of 2230 Collingwood Blvd. was arrested Aug. 28 by cold-case detectives, who reopened the investigation with new DNA evidence.
During the trial, county assistant prosecutors presented evidence that seemed to show Ms. Rivers was last seen with Randleman, that DNA found on her body was almost certainly Randleman's, and that the car Randleman drove Ms. Rivers in was found damaged and muddied the next day.
In closing arguments yesterday, defense attorney David Klucas highlighted evidence from the scene that did not point to Randleman, including the DNA of two unknown males found on Ms. Rivers' body.
He said the only usable tire tracks taken from the area where Ms. Rivers' body was found did not match the tires from the car Randleman was driving.
Instead of the state's theory, Mr. Klucas said Randleman dropped Ms. Rivers off at her request with several acquaintances, including two men.
That explanation better fits the time line that Randleman left Ms. Rivers near daybreak and was home before 6:30 a.m., Mr. Klucas said.
"There is a very limited time to do what the state says he did," he noted.
County Assistant Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson focused on the witnesses who said they saw Randleman and Ms. Rivers leaving an after-hours bar together and the condition of the borrowed car Randleman was driving that night.
Witnesses said the car was not damaged when Randleman borrowed it that morning, but was found by police 20 hours later damaged and full of mud.
That car, said county Assistant Prosecutor Tim Braun, did not become muddied and damaged "driving the streets of Toledo." Instead, he said, "someone has taken this car off the road."
Ms. Rivers' body was found about a quarter-mile from East Manhattan Boulevard in a ravine at Miracle Park. "The murderer drove back there through the mud to dump a body," Mr. Braun said. "The mistake he made was that he didn't take care of his friend's car."