The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 12, 2012

Madison murder suspect’s fate in hands of the jury

By MARGIE NETZEL - mnetzel@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

PAINESVILLE — Danna Weimer both maintained her innocence and insisted she and her son, Zachary Weimer, “stay on the same page” when it came to telling their story to police, jailhouse correspondence between the two reveals.

“(Danna) was up to her eyeballs in this and she knew it,” Lake County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Bartolotta said in his closing remarks to the jury Thursday afternoon.

The 17 pages of letters, sent from mother to son and son to mother while both were incarcerated in the Lake County Jail as they awaited trial in the murder of 77-year-old Eleanor Robertson, are addressed to “Mama Bear” and “Bear Cub,” the pair’s nicknames for each other.

Bartolotta said the two had, “a different type of relationship, an odd sort of relationship.”

The letters contain a crude drawing of the two, represented as stick figures holding hands inside a heart.

Bartolotta said that while Zachary Weimer, 22, also facing 17 counts including aggravated murder, burglary, and receiving stolen property, was concerned about his mother “staying on the same page,” and “keeping their story straight,” Danna Weimer was concerned his “concocted story” “wouldn’t hold up in court.”

“I must know what you said,” Zachary wrote to Danna. “Silence is key.”

He also urged his mother to “be strong and silent” and wrote that he would take a plea deal, “to get her clean,” the letters reveal.

Danna writes back; “The sooner we get back on track, the better. Take a plea deal and get less time.”

The letters, in part, were read during the closing arguments of the case after seven days of testimony from more than 30 state’s witnesses. The defense, led by attorney Aaron Baker, rested Thursday without calling any witnesses.

In his closing, Baker argued that his client was forthcoming with information to police after her arrest for drug abuse in a cash-for-gold business parking lot in Euclid on June 13, that she had no idea where the property she and her son were trying to sell came from, and that she had no idea about where Robertson’s still-missing van, last seen on Weimer’s own video surveillance system leaving her driveway, could be.

In his final comments to the jury, Bartolotta recalled video of Danna Weimer’s first police interview, where she plainly lies about her son’s cell phone. He reminded the jury of the home surveillance video, which shows the defendant helping Zachary carry Robertson’s property out of Danna’s home and placing it in her own car.

Danna Weimer also allegedly followed her son out of her Austinburg Township driveway as he drove Robertson’s van, texting “turn left here” before the van was dumped or disposed of.

“She told lies to police right off the bat in Euclid,” Bartolotta said. “We see her on video, loading the stuff in her own car. She would be a damn fool to not know this property was obtained through the commission of a theft, and she is no fool.”

While there is no physical evidence linking Danna Weimer with the murder and burglary scene, Bartolotta said Danna’s complicity in the crimes make her just as guilty as her son, whose footprints clearly place him at Robertson’s Madison Township home at the time of the murder.

“She had a stake in this and she is a guilty as he is on each and every count,” he said.

Witness Richard Gould, who was an inmate with Zachary Weimer, best connected the dots, Bartolotta said, testifying that while Zachary never specifically implicated his mother in the crimes, he told his jailhouse friend that “a buddy” helped him clean up at the crime scene.

“Look at all of the stuff they did at that house,” he said, “This was not an in and out crime. They went through that house closet-by-closet, drawer-by-drawer. The place was ransacked. Yet, no DNA was found. Even Eleanor’s fingerprints were found in her own home. That house was cleaned and cleaned well. This took a long time. There was no ‘buddy’ there. She was the only ‘buddy’ who was there.”

Baker also took the prosecution to task over Gould’s testimony, claiming Gould lied on the stand because the state “cut a deal” with the convicted felon to spare him jail time over three thefts he committed from real estate open houses. Facing 19 years in jail, Gould received just probation for his crimes.

Bartolotta said he cut a deal with a thief to catch a killer.

“If Richard Gould was here to say what we wanted him to say, we would have had him come in here and point the finger right at Danna Weimer. That’s why you should believe Richard Gould,” he told the jury.

Bartolotta said Gould’s crimes were not violent.

“He was down on his luck and stole some jewelry from some open houses in broad daylight,” he said. “I will cut a deal with a thief like that any day of the week to catch a killer.”

After hours of jury instructions by Judge Eugene Lucci on Thursday, the jury will begin deliberations today.