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Prosecutors seek death penalty in beating case


August 24. 2013 10:51AM
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LIMA ó Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man accused of beating a woman to death last week, marking the second time this year they have sought the ultimate punishment.



Hager Church, 25, was indicted Monday on aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, both charges with repeat violent offender specifications. The indictments were handed down as part of a special session of an Allen County grand jury, Prosecutor Juergen Waldick said.



The other death penalty case is against Demond Jones, 37, who is charged in the Feb. 27 slaying of Marjorie Williams in her home at 1907 Zeits Ave.



Church is charged in the Aug. 16 slaying of 49-year-old Debra Henderson, who was beaten to death inside her home at 619 Woodward Ave. Police said Henderson was beaten in the head during a robbery. Detective Tim Clark said Church confessed to the crime. Church and Henderson were acquaintances from the neighborhood. Churchís mother was a neighbor to Henderson, police said.



Church was being held without bail pending his arraignment, which is expected to take place sometime this week.



Jurors will decide whether the death penalty is justified for the crime after being presented with information on how Henderson was killed, Waldick said.



While prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in two cases, actually having a jury hand down a death sentence can be difficult. History has proved during the last 60 years itís even harder to carry out a death sentence on anyone from Allen County.



While Allen County prosecutors have sought the death penalty numerous times through the years, the last person executed was Lester Nichols, 44, of Lima, on March 4, 1949, for the murder of his father-in-law, the Rev. Lewis Whitaker, according to state prison system records.



The only other person executed from Allen County since 1897 was Harry Pierpont on Oct. 17, 1934. Pierpoint, 32, was a member of the John Dillinger gang who killed Allen County Sheriff Jesse Sarber on Oct. 12, 1933, to free Dillinger.



Both men were executed by electrocution. Today, Ohio executes its inmates by lethal injection.



Allen County has two men on death row. Jeronique Cunningham and Cleveland Jackson. Both men were convicted in the 2002 Eureka Street shootings that left a 3-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl dead. The men lined up eight people inside a small apartment kitchen and opened fire. The men were trying to rob one of the victims of drugs and money.



In recent years, Allen County juries have elected to sentence defendants to life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty.



No one from the Leland Avenue firebombings in 2000 that killed a mother and four children received a death sentence. Neither did Michael Glenn for beating to death two women on St. Johns Avenue in April 2005. Both inmates in the 1996 murder of Bonita Haynes inside Lima Correctional Institution also avoided the death penalty.



Allen County also has had others who landed on death row such as Richard Joseph for the 1990 murder of Bath High School student Ryan Young only to have their sentences commuted on appeal.



Ohio also had nearly a 10-year span without the death penalty that began in 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. The death penalty was reinstated in Ohio in 1981, which began with cases committed after that time. It took nearly 20 years before the state carried out an execution.






Prosecutors seek death penalty in beating case


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