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Published: Thursday, 6/11/2009

Trial in 1991 slaying opens

Thomas Zich talks with his attorney, Alan Konop, before jury selection for his trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Thomas Zich talks with his attorney, Alan Konop, before jury selection for his trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Nearly 18 years ago, Mary Jane Zich was found dead in the trunk of her car, abandoned on an East Toledo street miles away from her Genoa home.

She had been missing for several weeks, an assistant prosecutor said yesterday, although it was several days before her husband reported her disappearance to police.

And she had been unhappy in her marriage, so much so that she told others that she was going to get a divorce, Assistant Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson added.

During opening statements in the murder trial of Thomas Zich, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury heard about the months and days preceding the 1991 disappearance of his wife. Mr. Anderson said that through the testimony of more than 25 witnesses, pieces of the puzzle will fall into place, pointing to who strangled Mrs. Zich.

Mr. Zich, of Swanton, was indicted in June, 2007, for murder. He faces life in prison if convicted.

According to his attorney, Alan Konop, many of the facts of the case will be undisputed, namely that the couple had a rocky marriage, that they bought homes together, and that on Dec. 18, 1991, Mrs. Zich was found dead as a result of ligature strangulation.

That s where it all comes down to here, is Tom the one who perpetrated the crime? he questioned.

A jury of six men and six women was impaneled yesterday morning to hear evidence in the trial, which is expected to last two weeks. Four witnesses testified yesterday about the murder case that came to trial after it was reopened by cold case detectives.

Ottawa County Sheriff s Sergeant Jeff Hickman testified that he was called to a Genoa home on Dec. 7, 1991, to take a report of a missing person. Mr. Zich told him then that his wife had not been seen for nearly a week, he testified.

Sergeant Hickman said that throughout his interviews with Mr. Zich, he didn t seem to be that concerned at all.

He wasn t upset, the sergeant said in response to a question on Mr. Zich s demeanor. He wasn t upset at all.

Mr. Konop noted that people in stressful situations react differently, a point to which Sergeant Hickman agreed. The sergeant also acknowledged that prior to Dec. 7, 1991, he had never met Mr. Zich and so did not know how he would react.

Cynthia Beisser, a deputy Lucas County coroner, testified that Mrs. Zich was killed by strangulation, possibly by someone using a rope. She said that because of the cold temperatures at the time, the body had at one time frozen, which eliminated any means to determine the time of death.

Prior to the start of the trial, Judge Gene Zmuda ruled that the victim s daughter, who was 3 years old at the time of her mother s murder, would be allowed to testify. The judge denied the defense argument that because of her young age and the ensuing years of familial influence, the testimony of Desiree Andaverde, now 20, would be unreliable.

Also scheduled to testify are three of Mr. Zich s former wives. The women are expected to testify about experiences of violence with their former husband.

Testimony in the trial will continue today.

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