The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 20, 2012

Murder case goes to jury

Defense: Evidence circumstantial

Star Beacon

PAINESVILLE — Well, we all know this looks bad,” Lake County assistant public defender James Mathews said.

Mathews didn’t give accused murderer Zachary Weimer any credit in his closing arguments for what could be proven by cell phone records and video surveillance.

“We are not disputing what was proven here,” he said. “We are not disputing that he was in possession of the victim’s property and that he had her van. That’s all on video.”

The jury heard closing arguments from the defense and prosecution Monday in the murder trial of Zachary Weimer, 23, of Geneva. They began deliberations Monday afternoon in Lake County Common Pleas court after five days of hearing testimony and viewing evidence.

Weimer faces 17 charges, including aggravated murder, burglary and receiving stolen property. He is accused of stabbing 77-year-old Madison Township resident Eleanor Robertson 94 times on June 13, dousing her body with chemicals and robbing her Madison Township house of valuables.

But when it comes to the other charges against Weimer, Mathews told the jury the prosecution simply doesn’t have enough evidence against his client.

“There are some things that we will dispute here,” he said. “Murder, burglary, robbery, theft — we know all this looks bad, but it is all circumstantial evidence. In America, we don’t convict people on what looks bad.”

Evidence against Weimer included video surveillance footage, cell phone records including text messages; dozens of items stolen from Robertson’s home and found in Weimer’s possession, autopsy and crime scene photos, fingerprinted items from Robertson’s home, video Weimer’s initial interrogation in the case; and perhaps most damning — footprints at the murder scene that match the size, wear pattern and brand of Weimer’s tennis shoes.

Mathews said there wasn’t enough blood at the scene or elsewhere to prove Weimer committed the murder.

“The state failed to provide an adequate explanation for the lack of blood in the victim’s home,” Mathews said. “How do you stab someone 94 times in a home full of white surfaces and carpeting and have such a lack of blood. How do you clean up so meticulously?”

Lake County assistant prosecuting attorney Mark Bartolotta said that claim — made frequently by Mathews throughout the trial — was ridiculous.

“Are they trying to say that Eleanor wasn’t stabbed 94 times?” he said. “Just because there wasn’t a lot of blood in the house doesn’t mean she wasn’t stabbed and it doesn’t mean she’s not dead.”

Bartolotta said testimony proves a lot of Robertson’s blood pooled inside her body or was absorbed by her clothing or the carpeting under her body. He also noted video surveillance that shoes Weimer burning big bags of items in his mother’s Austinburg Township backyard.

And then it all comes back to Weimer’s shoes.

“Those lily white shoes he was wearing,” Mathews said. “If he is the murderer and he stabbed Eleanor 94 times, how did those shoes stay so perfectly clean?”

“Well, he wasn’t stabbing her with his feet,” Bartolotta retorted. “Eleanor died in one corner of her own bedroom. Don’t fall for that red herring argument,” he told the jury. “Don’t fall for it.”

Mathews also said the state failed to find a murder weapon, was not able to place Weimer in Robertson’s home by eye witness on the day of the murder, did not find Weimer’s DNA or fingerprints at the murder scene, and did not find Robertson’s DNA on Weimer.

Again, Bartolotta wasn’t deterred.

“We found almost no fingerprints of Eleanor’s,” he said. “Does that mean she didn’t live there? Does that mean she didn’t die there? It’s ridiculous.”