A Toledo man charged in the 1995 strangulation-death of a woman whose body was found in a North Toledo park was found not guilty of murder yesterday after a three-day trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Dean Randleman, 54, of 2230 Collingwood Blvd. was accused in the death of Evelyn Rivers. The 29-year-old woman's body was found in a ravine in Miracle Park on May 17, 1995.
Judge Charles Doneghy listened to the testimony of 14 witnesses over three days before returning with his verdict. The evidence was presented to the judge instead of a jury at request of Randleman's attorney, David Klucas.
Randleman was shackled when he was escorted from the courtroom back to the jail from which he was released.
Family members of both Ms. Rivers and Randleman were in court when the decision was read. Tears formed in the eyes of members of both families.
"I'm just glad it's over with," said Randleman's fiance, Cheryl Fox, as she left the courtroom.
Randleman was arrested Aug. 28 by cold-case detectives who reopened the investigation with new DNA evidence. The last known person seen with Ms. Rivers was Randleman, authorities said.
Throughout the trial, assistant prosecutors presented evidence, including testimony from witnesses; Randleman's DNA, which was found on the victim's body, and damage to the vehicle in which Randleman gave Ms. Rivers a ride.
Judge Doneghy said before announcing his decision that while difficult, his job as the finder of fact was to remove his feelings from the situation and concentrate on "what does the evidence or lack of evidence demonstrate."
"Having considered all the evidence and the applicable law, the court finds that the state has not maintained its burden of proof," he said before announcing the verdict.
After the verdict, Mr. Klucas pointed to the age of the case and the lack of conclusive scientific evidence.
"Memories fade," he said. "In an older case like these, not always but generally you need the science to back it up, and the science wasn't there."
Mr. Klucas said it was a trial tactic based on his assessment of the state's evidence to try the case to a judge. He said some of the inconsistencies of Randleman's initial statements to police "don't really resonate with me, but might have resonated with jurors."
County Assistant Prosecutor Tim Braun admitted the case was a "tough" one. He said he sympathized with Ms. Rivers' family, who for more than a decade wondered what happened to her and who did not get a conclusive answer yesterday.
Ms. Rivers' younger sister, Angela Harper-Ramsey, disagreed, saying whatever the verdict, her family's prayers had been answered.
Before hearing the judge's decision, she said she was comfortable with the thought she believes she finally knows who caused her sister's death.
"All we prayed for is that we know," she said prior to hearing the verdict. "Even if it's not guilty, it's happened. We looked her killer in the face and we know."
After learning that Randleman was found not guilty, Ms. Harper-Ramsey said it's been a long time, but added, "It's alright."
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