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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

Jury weighs significance of glove at homicide

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Armstrong Armstrong
JETTA FRASER / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Darin Armstrong's DNA was found on a glove left near the slain body of Marc Draper - but whether it means he was the shooter or whether other "savvy" criminals left the evidence at the scene is now up to a jury to decide.

Jurors will continue to deliberate today in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to decide whether Armstrong, 28, is guilty of murder and aggravated robbery. Mr. Draper, 36, was shot once in the back of the head while he was cooking during the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day in 2007.

Mr. Draper, who was known to sell drugs from the back door of his Freeman Street home, was the target of a robbery, Assistant County Prosecutor Andy Lastra said. It was a robbery planned by several people.

Over a two-day trial, Mr. Lastra presented 11 witnesses, including law enforcement, forensic scientists, and Mr. Draper's father. Yesterday, the defense offered two witnesses and statements from a third to refute the state's theory that Armstrong was the man who pulled the trigger.

"There is no direct evidence that implicates Darin, just a glove with Darin and four others' DNA on it that someone else easily could have brought to the scene," attorney Mark Geudtner said during closing arguments. "Anyone bold enough to plan and execute the aggravated robbery of a drug dealer is likely savvy enough to avoid leaving DNA at the scene."

Armstrong's girlfriend, Deana Chinnis, testified yesterday that the two were together throughout the night of Nov. 22, 2007 - starting with a party earlier in the night and ending with a stay in a local hotel.

Mr. Lastra questioned wheth-er Armstrong was in her sight the entire time and pointed to a period of several minutes when the two were separated. That time coincided with the time Mr. Draper was killed and when he was just two miles from the Drapers' Freeman Street home, Mr. Lastra said.

Mr. Geudtner also presented testimony from two individuals, both of whom pointed to another man as the killer.

The statements of Omar Scott - who testified on behalf of the state in the murder trial of Christopher Burleson last year - were read to the jury by Judge Frederick McDonald, who is presiding over the trial. The statements implicated Burleson and another man in the robbery and killing of Mr. Draper.

Burleson, who police believe had set up the robbery of Mr. Draper, was charged and tried on homicide charges last year. He was found not guilty of murder and aggravated robbery in May after a bench trial in front of Judge Denise Ann Dartt.

Mr. Lastra conceded during closing arguments that there were several people involved in the incident. But while police believed others had a role, evidence found at the scene pointed to Armstrong as the shooter, he said.

Specifically, it was the glove found next to Mr. Draper's body that had Armstrong's DNA inside and gunshot residue on the outside, he said. Mr. Lastra added the defense contention that someone else used latex gloves to avoid depositing DNA on the glove left at the scene was "ludicrous."

"The State of Ohio through the Toledo Police Department tried to rule out or include several people," he said. The scientific evidence collected, he added, proved Armstrong's involvement.

Mr. Geudtner cautioned jurors that "not all crime can be solved by DNA evidence."

He pointed out that while no witnesses implicated Armstrong, at least two pointed the finger elsewhere.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about two hours before concluding for the night. They will return today to continue deliberations.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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