Forensic experts question prosecution's theories

  • FILE-William-Montgomery-2

    A pair of forensics experts questioned the fundamentals of the prosecution's theories that have put William T. Montgomery a little over a month away from execution.

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  • COLUMBUS — Jane Ogle held up a white porcelain vase, the last gift that her daughter, Debra, gave her as she urged the Ohio Parole Board on Thursday not to show mercy toward the man convicted of killing her.

    She reminded the board that the killing had occurred 32 years earlier to the day that they were meeting to consider William T. Montgomery's fate.

    “There were no drugs, and she was running when she was shot. She thought she could outrun the bullet,” she said, referring to her daughter running track in high school.

    She noted that he'd killed his uncle as a juvenile.

    “(Ohio) just slapped his hand, so he thought he could do it again,” she said. “That's where I'm at now.”

    Montgomery was convicted of killing Ms. Ogle, 20, as part of a Toledo robbery on March 8, 1986, and then returning to kill her roommate, Cynthia Tincher, 19, because she could have placed Montgomery and his convicted accomplice, Grover Heard, with Ms. Ogle that night.

    Montgomery was sentenced to death for Ms. Ogle's murder and is scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 11. He is serving a separate life sentence for Ms. Tincher's murder.

    “Mr. Montgomery wants to get out,” Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates told the board. “Well, I hope that doesn't happen, ladies and gentlemen.”

    VIDEO: Lucas County prosecutor explains why a report that Ogle was supposedly seen 4 days after her death was not given to the defense

    The board will issue its recommendation to Gov. John Kasich on March 16

    A pair of forensics experts, originally from the Netherlands and now living in Colorado, questioned the fundamentals of the prosecution's theories that have put Montgomery a little more than a month away from his execution.

    They suggested that Ms. Ogle, of Toledo, was not dead as long as the prosecution maintained and that a second gun other than the one owned by Montgomery might have been used,

    If accepted, the findings could upset both the timeline and the motive behind the murders of the two roommates.

    Selma Eikelenboom-Schieveld, of Independent Forensics Services, in 2012 reviewed the autopsy records and findings from 1986 at the request of Montgomery's mother.

    “It's very unlikely that she died on March 8, and there's very strong support for the hypothesis that she died on March 12,” she said.

    Ms. Ogle's body was found in a wooded area on March 12, four days after she was believed to have been killed and the same day that Ms. Tincher's body was found. Ms Eikelenboom-Schieveld said decomposition of the body and the lack of animal and insect activity was not consistent with a body that had been exposed to the weather in that area for four days.

    The conclusion that Ms. Ogle had actually died closer to March 12 falls in line with a police report made by several of Ms. Ogle's former high school classmates that they had seen her in a car with a white man at her apartment complex on that date. Montgomery and Heard are black.

    That report did not surface until well after Montgomery's conviction and death sentence. The classmates later said they were mistaken and had actually seen and waved to Ms. Ogle's younger sister.

    Richard Eikelenboom, of IFS, testified that his analysis of the weapons forensics in 1986 suggested that a second gun, a .38 Special, may have been used in the killing of Ms. Ogle in addition to the 380 Bersa semi-automatic handgun that Montgomery admittedly owned.

    Montgomery has insisted he is innocent and has argued that Heard used his 380 to kill both women. Heard's mother owned a .38 Special at the time, but it was apparently not tested.

    Heard struck a deal with the prosecution to testify against Montgomery. He is serving a sentence of 15 years to life and could get a parole hearing in 2021.

    “That seems like an awful long time under the state's theory that he was really just kind of along for the ride and maybe complicit after the fact in these murders,” Montgomery's Cleveland attorney, Jon Oebker, told the board. “But yet he's going to be in jail for at least 35 years? Why is he still in jail?

    “Maybe this board or the people that reviewed him feel like he did a lot more in this case than what the state's theory was at trial,” he said.

    Several board members asked why the initial police report made by Ms. Ogle's classmates had not been turned over to the defense and wondered if it could have made a difference in Montgomery's case at the time.

    “There was a report that should have been given to the defense,” said member Ellen Venters, who stressed that she didn't believe Ms. Ogle was still alive.

    “The second prong to say it wouldn't have made a difference, I think that's speculation,” she said. “We don't know if it would have made a difference.”

    A federal court judge had ordered a new trial for Montgomery based on the failure of the prosecution to turn over that report, and a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had agreed.

    But the full circuit bench overturned that decision with a 10-5 vote, agreeing that, while the report should have been given to the defense, it would not have made a difference in the outcome.

    Ms. Bates' husband, now Common Pleas Judge James Bates, prosecuted the Montgomery case. She told the board that her husband did not know of the police report and would have turned if over if he had.

    She also said that if Ms. Ogle were indeed alive four days after she was supposed to have been killed, then Montgomery's story that Heard killed her fell apart.

    “If the police report is true or is produced in a trial and some consideration is given to the fact that it's true, Grover Heard is locked up,” she said. “He's in custody. He could not have been responsible.”

    Mr. Oebker produced affidavits and letters from some jurors who said they may not have returned a guilty or death verdict if they'd had this information at the time of Montgomery's trial.

    “It's a sad day when there are people being executed where we have constitutional violations,” he said.

    Montgomery, as in all death row clemency cases, was not present as his fate was debated in Columbus. One board member noted that she felt disadvantaged by his refusal to sit for a prison interview with a member.

    The board also noted that he declined to provide his mental health records and that his mother, who visits him frequently in prison, did not appear on his behalf before the board.

    Contact Jim Provance at or 614-221-0496.