The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

October 14, 2010

Judge won’t reduce murder suspect’s bond

Trial starts Nov. 16 for man accused in stabbing death

JEFFERSON —  An Ashtabula man accused of murdering for drugs was denied a personal recognizance bond during a pre-trial hearing Wednesday afternoon before Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Vettel.

Christopher Withrow, 27, of Robin Circle, also learned his trial is scheduled to start on Nov. 16. The trial could take 10 days to complete, said Harold Specht Jr., chief assistant prosecutor.

Withrow has been charged with two counts each of aggravated murder, murder and aggravated robbery in the Christmas Day stabbing death of William Post, 42, of Ashtabula Township. An early suspect in the case, Withrow turned himself in to public defender Marie Lane on Sept. 21.

If convicted, Withrow could spend the rest of his life in prison. Shackled and clad in jail clothes, he did not speak during the hearing. At the end of the hearing, Withrow acknowledged the several well-wishers in the audience as they left the courtroom.

Wednesday’s hearing was held to address various details prior to the start of the trial. Lane told the court defense counsel had just received information from the prosecution and needed time to review the voluminous material. That research will also determine any pre-trial motions the defense may want to raise, Lane said. The defense expects to complete its review of the prosecution’s material in time for the hearing, she said.

Many of the details will be worked out work at another pre-trial hearing set for 9 a.m. Oct. 27.

Questioned by Vettel, Specht said no plea has yet been offered in the case but didn’t rule out the possibility once the defense has studied the evidence.

“We haven’t had a chance to discuss (a plea with defense counsel),” he said. “We expect to make an offer, but we will await the defense’s review of discovery.”

Cut-off date for any plea is Nov. 9, Vettel said.

At the end of the hearing, Lane asked Vettel to consider a personal recognizance bond for Withrow, citing the defendant’s cooperation and willingness to stay in the area, even though he knew deputies considered him the prime suspect.

“It’s no secret he was the target of the investigation since the end of December,” Lane said. “The entire time (Withrow) kept in contact with me and never attempted to flee. If we was going to run, he would’ve run when told he was indicted.”

Lane suggested a monitoring device be attached to Withrow to help authorities keep tabs on his whereabouts.

Specht objected to the idea. Despite Withrow’s past reliability, the defendant “has had time to sit in jail and think about the seriousness of the charges,” Specht said.

The prosecution also expressed concern for a material witness in the case who “may be in fear of his safety and his family’s safety.”

Vettel quickly rejected any change in bond, saying the charges don’t merit a reduction.

“It’s unprecedented in this county to ask for a personal recognizance bond in an aggravated murder case,” he said. “When there is a potential penalty of life in prison, there is always the risk any defendant will take off. We need assurances (Withrow) will be here, and if he’s not here we need assurances somebody else will be looking for him besides the sheriff’s department.”

Investigators believe Withrow repeatedly stabbed Post inside the victim’s Dickenson Road home on Dec. 25. Crack cocaine valued at $40 was the apparent motive, assistant county prosecutor Bruce Bennett said last month.

Bennett will help Specht prosecute the case, while Dean Topalof will assist Lane.

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