COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned Ohio killer scheduled to die next month should be spared because of uncertainty about the case, including questions about when one of the victims was slain, his attorney told the state’s parole board on Thursday.
At issue before the board is the conviction and death sentence of William Montgomery for the fatal shooting of Debra Ogle in 1986 in the Toledo area. Montgomery also was convicted of murder but not sentenced to death for the shooting of Cynthia Tincher, Ogle’s roommate.
Montgomery is set to die on April 11. Republican Gov. John Kasich has the final say.
Ogle and Tincher were killed March 8, 1986, with Ogle shot as part of a robbery and Tincher killed because she could identify Montgomery and his co-defendant, Glover Heard, according to the Lucas County prosecutor.
Tincher’s body was found in her car on March 8. Ogle’s body was found in woods on March 13.
Heard and Montgomery each blamed the other for the killings. Heard pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Montgomery in exchange for prosecutors dropping death penalty charges and a child molesting charge.
Prosecutors say evidence points to Montgomery as the killer, including his gun being used in both killings and eyewitnesses who saw him near Tincher’s car where she was found dead.
Montgomery also dropped off a jacket at the dry cleaner the day of the killings, described as “putting a yellowish brown, brownish dripping mess on the floor,” according to prosecutors.
The evidence against Montgomery, including his own version of events, points to him as the killer of both women, Stephen Maher, an assistant Ohio attorney general, told the board.
Montgomery’s attorney says an examination of Ogle’s autopsy casts doubt on the state’s version of the killings, which then calls into question the entire case against Montgomery.
“There’s just too much doubt. Too much uncertainty,” attorney Jon Oebker told the parole board.
Ogle’s body lacked signs of decomposition natural for a body left outside for several days and the pooling of blood known as “lividity” indicated she died within six to 12 hours before she was found on March 13, 1986, and not a few days earlier on March 8, according to the review by Colorado-based Independent Forensic Services.
Evy Jarrett, of the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, questioned how likely it was in cold temperatures that the decomposition would have occurred as the forensic examination showed.
Oebker also argued:
• The state withheld information at trial about other suspects, including jealous boyfriends and a “drug cartel” hit man, and evidence that Ogle was seen alive after March 8.
• A juror who recommended death for Montgomery said in an affidavit last month he would not have done so based on the new evidence, including discrepancies about Ogle’s death.
• Another juror should not have been allowed to stay on the case after telling the trial judge she was a psychiatric patient who claimed to have seen a psychiatrist testifying on behalf of Montgomery in a dream 22 years earlier.
A federal judge and a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Montgomery deserved a new trial based on a police report never presented to the defense in which witnesses said they saw Ogle alive after March 8. The full 6th Circuit rejected that argument. The witnesses later said they mistook Ogle’s sister for the missing woman.
Board member Ellen Venters said the fact the witnesses were mistaken doesn’t excuse the failure to provide the report.
“Fair is fair. Rules are rules. It should have been turned over,” she said.