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Published: Friday, 3/19/2010

Murder suspect's second trial to be heard by judge

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - For his second time around, Ralph Doren has chosen to have his trial for the 1991 murder of a Northwood woman heard by a judge, not a jury.

Doren, 60, yesterday waived his right to a trial by jury in Wood County Common Pleas Court. Judge Reeve Kelsey, who presided over Doren's 2006 jury trial, declined to hear the second trial scheduled to begin June 7. It will be heard instead by Judge Robert Pollex.

"The judge was concerned that having heard the first trial that that would taint his ability to be unbiased hearing the evidence and deciding the evidence," county Prosecutor Paul Dobson said.

Doren is charged with aggravated murder stemming from the June 7, 1991, death of Deanna Meeks, who was 19. She was found with her throat slashed in the kitchen of the Lester Avenue home she shared with her mother, Joyce Baird, and Ms. Baird's boyfriend, Boyd Smith.

The house had been ransacked, and investigators believed Miss Meeks was killed by an intruder who knew Ms. Baird and Mr. Smith were away.

While Doren's name came up early in the investigation - he had worked with Mr. Smith at a Sylvania auto dealership - he was not indicted for the murder until 2004. He was then serving 30 to 60 years in a Michigan prison for an unrelated 1993 rape conviction in Monroe County, and he remains in prison in that case.

In 2006, Doren was convicted of aggravated murder for Miss Meeks' death following a nearly two-week trial. Judge Kelsey sentenced him to 20 years to life in prison to be served consecutive to the Michigan sentence.

Then, in January, 2009, Doren's conviction was overturned by the 6th District Court of Appeals, which found that Judge Kelsey should have declared a mistrial when prosecutors inadvertently played a tape for the jury in which Doren mentioned a polygraph examination. The judge had ruled prior to the trial that any references to a polygraph could not be admitted as evidence.

Defense attorney Dave Klucas declined to comment yesterday on why Doren chose to have his second trial heard by a judge. Among other motions, he has asked the court to suppress evidence related to a photo array of suspects shown in 2003 to a former Lester Avenue resident who told Northwood police she saw a stranger walking down the street the day of the murder. He contends the photo array was "impermissibly suggestive and the alleged identification [of Doren] is unreliable."



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