LIMA — Jurors in the aggravated murder trial of Ross McWay on Wednesday viewed an 80-minute videotaped jailhouse interview during which the defendant admitted to causing the death of Lima resident Wendy Jeffers.
The interview, conducted by Detective Steve Stechschulte at the Lima police station on Jan. 19 — four days after the lifeless body of Jeffers had been found at her residence at 1112 N. Main St. — took place one day after McWay was arrested in connection with the homicide.
The interview between Stechschulte and McWay started slowly, with the detective telling McWay he knew the 38-year-old Lima man had killed Jeffers, with whom he had been involved in a romantic relationship.
“I don’t have any doubt that you did this. All I don’t know is why,” Stechschulte told McWay on the video. “You’ve got to tell me what happened.”
McWay initially remained mostly silent, but some 30 minutes into the interview the defendant, now sobbing softly, began to offer his version of the events on the night of Jan. 15 when Jeffers was killed.
He said he went to the North Main Street residence on the evening of Jan. 14 after receiving a text from Jeffers that he should remove his clothing from the home. McWay had been released from jail one day earlier after being acquitted in an unrelated rape case. He said the late-night conversation initially revolved about whether the pair could continue their romantic relationship.
“She [Jeffers] was under a lot of stress and said she didn’t know if we could still be together happily after how I hurt her” through the rape case that involved another woman, McWay said on the video. He said the tone of the conversation then escalated into anger and that he attempted to leave the home.
“She tried to stop me and I pushed her just to get her out of my way. This went on for an hour. I just wanted to go. We wasn’t making any progress,” the defendant told Stechschulte during the taped interview. “I just kept pushing her back and pushing her back.”
The pair, according to McWay, eventually ended up on the couch, where another struggle ensued. McWay told Stechschulte that at some point he put his hands around Jeffers’ throat.
“I didn’t realize the strength I had in me,” McWay told Stechschulte. “I just panicked. I didn’t know what to do.”
After Jeffers slumped over and was not responding, McWay said he moved her body into the bathroom. “I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. I messed up,” he told the detective.
Stechschulte testified that while the Lucas County Coroner ruled Jeffers’ death to be from strangulation, there was water in her nasal cavity, meaning she was not yet dead when McWay placed her body in the bathtub and reportedly filled it with water.
Defense attorney Steve Chamberlain did not cross-examine Stechschulte.
McWay’s taped confession that Jeffers’ death was the result of a spur-of-the-moment decision, flew in the face of testimony presented Wednesday by two inmates who shared space with McWay in the Allen County Jail. Anthony Lehman and Tyler Bradford, serving prison time for robbery and felonious assault, respectively, each testified they overheard jailhouse conversations during which McWay vowed to kill Jeffers, by strangling her, once he was released from jail.
Jeffers’ body was found slumped over the bathtub in the North Main Street home. Stechschulte testified that his investigation at the home showed the bathtub to be wet, but with no standing water. He said the victim’s face showed signs of trauma consistent with physical abuse.
The state plans to wrap up its portion of the case by calling its final witness Thursday morning. At the conclusion of that testimony the defense will present its case.