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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Zich guilty of killing fifth wife


For nearly all her life, Desiree Andaverde has lived with images of pain and sorrow - memories of her mother being hurt.

Yesterday, after a six-day jury trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, those feelings of pain blended with relief as the man charged with her mother's 1991 murder, Thomas Zich, was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

"Every time I think of him, that's what I remember, not so much I remember, but I feel it. I feel the hurt. I feel the sadness," Ms. Andaverde, 20, said after the verdict.

"I don't hate him, and I couldn't go through life hating. Instead of doing that, I forgave him in my heart," she said. "I just want to know that he feels remorse."

Zich, 62, of Swanton was convicted of murder for the death of his fifth wife, Mary Jane Zich.

Desiree Andaverde, whose mother s killer was convicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, is consoled by her uncle, Dan Andaverde. He is the brother of the victim, Mary Jane Zich. At left is the victim s cousin, Hector Ramirez. Desiree Andaverde, whose mother s killer was convicted in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, is consoled by her uncle, Dan Andaverde. He is the brother of the victim, Mary Jane Zich. At left is the victim s cousin, Hector Ramirez.
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A jury of six men and six women deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours.

He sat motionless when learning the verdict and said nothing before he was sentenced by Judge Gene Zmuda.

Dan Andaverde, Mrs. Zich's brother, said that Zich's "arrogance" during the trial was an affront to family members who have lived for nearly 18 years without justice.

Mrs. Zich was found dead in the trunk of her car on Dec. 18, 1991, in East Toledo. She had been strangled.

For years, Mrs. Zich's death remained unsolved. In 2004, cold-case investigators reopened the case at the urging of family members.

Family members cried when learning of the verdict.

"We'll try to do some healing," Mr. Andaverde said. "We'll celebrate the victory of this trial."

Jurors heard testimony from 24 witnesses, including the three ex-wives to whom Zich was married before he was married to Mrs. Zich.

The women described situations in which they were attacked by their husband - and in each instances, he lunged for their necks, they said.

During closing arguments, Assistant County Prosecutor Jeff Lingo spoke of Zich's tendency to want to "move on" from his many wives. Mr. Lingo created a time line of events leading up to the discovery of Mrs. Zich's body and spoke of her days spent away from home with her boyfriend, how

Zich had seen them together, and how on the day she disappeared, Mrs. Zich told a friend she intended to ask for a divorce.

By reviewing the testimony of each of the state's 24 witnesses, Mr. Lingo told the story of what investigators believe happened to Mrs. Zich on Nov. 29, 1991, the night she is believed to have been killed.

"What we believed happened is that Mary Jane came home intending to tell him she wanted a divorce and he killed her," he said after the verdict. "At some point, she was put in the trunk of the car and he takes the car downtown [to Toledo], takes Desiree to a babysitter, and gets a ride home."

Defense attorney Alan Konop said authorities did not have physical evidence linking Zich to his wife's death - no verifiable murder weapon, no DNA at the scene, and no eyewitnesses.

Mr. Konop said after the trial that he was disappointed in the verdict and that Zich will appeal.

Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson told jurors that the case was one of "motive, opportunity, and means."

He asked that they use deductive reasoning in taking the testimony that was offered by witnesses and fitting it together to reach the truth.

In a cold case with little forensic evidence, the strength of the murder charge relied on the witnesses and what they remembered about those few months in 1991, Mr. Anderson said. "When you take everything and put it together, the pieces fit," he said after the trial.

Surrounded by her family - including Mrs. Zich's mother and several of her seven brothers and sisters - Ms. Andaverde said she knew she had to be at the trial of her mother's killer. With her young son walking among her family and husband, Neftali Pena, at her side, Ms. Andaverde related that her grandfather had commanded the family years ago before he died to "never give up."

"We believed in that," she said.

Contact Erica Blake at:


or 419-213-2134.

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