State v. McGuire

Decision Date10 December 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-1213,96-1213
Citation80 Ohio St.3d 390,686 N.E.2d 1112
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. McGUIRE, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court


Residual doubt is not an acceptable mitigating factor under R.C. 2929.04(B), since it is irrelevant to the issue of whether the defendant should be sentenced to death. Dennis McGuire, appellant, was convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and aggravated murder of twenty-two-year-old Joy Stewart of West Alexandria, Ohio. He was sentenced to death.

Joy Stewart was last seen alive on February 11, 1989. That morning, she had breakfast with her neighbors between 9 and 10. She went there alone that morning because her husband, Kenny Stewart, a truck driver, worked that day from approximately 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After breakfast, Joy went to visit Juanita Deaton, the mother of her friend Chris Deaton. Mrs. Deaton and her son lived next to each other in a duplex in West Alexandria.

McGuire had been hired by Chris Deaton to clean the ice out of his gutters that day. According to Chris, McGuire started around 9 or 10 a.m., and finished around noon. Mrs. Deaton testified that Joy arrived at around 9:30 or 10:00, while McGuire was working.

Mrs. Deaton saw Joy talking to two unidentified males in a dark-colored car before she left. As Joy was leaving, she told Mrs. Deaton that "she was going to catch a ride somewhere," although Mrs. Deaton did not actually see Joy leave in the car. Mrs. Deaton was unsure whether McGuire was one of the men in the car. A few minutes later, however, Mrs. Deaton asked whether McGuire had finished working on the gutters, and her son stated that McGuire had been paid and left.

Jerry Richardson, McGuire's brother-in-law, testified that McGuire later came over to his house that afternoon. While they were in Richardson's garage, Joy came in and said she wanted some marijuana. Richardson further testified that McGuire offered to get her some, and the two left in McGuire's car.

The following day, February 12, two hikers found the body of Joy Stewart in some woods near Bantas Creek. The front of her shirt was saturated with blood. One deputy sheriff at the scene, Larry Swihart, also noted that there appeared to be a "blood wipe mark" on her right arm. The body was taken to the Montgomery County Coroner's Office, where an autopsy was performed. The autopsy revealed that Joy had been stabbed twice. One wound, located above the left collarbone, caused no significant injury. The critical wound was a four-and-a-half-inch-deep cut in the throat, which completely severed the carotid artery and jugular vein. The doctor determined that Joy was alive when she received the wound, and that such a wound could have been caused by a single-edged blade shorter than four and a half inches, due to "how soft and moveable the tissues are in the neck." The autopsy also revealed abrasions around the neck, impressed with the cloth pattern of Joy's shirt.

The coroner's office also took vaginal, oral, and anal swabs. The coroner found an abundant amount of sperm on the anal swab, some sperm on the vaginal swab, and none on the oral swab. The coroner indicated that sperm could be detected in the vagina for days or sometimes weeks after ejaculation; however, sperm in the rectum could be detected for a lesser time "because the environment is fairly hostile for sperm, and * * * a bowel movement * * * usually will purge the rectum of any sperm."

Investigator David Lindloff of the Preble County Prosecutor's Office investigated the murder, but to no immediate avail. However, in December 1989, Lindloff was notified that McGuire wanted to talk to him about information concerning a murder in Preble County. McGuire was in jail at the time on an unrelated offense and told a corrections officer that he needed to talk to Investigator Lindloff and Deputy Swihart.

Joseph Goodwin, the corrections officer McGuire initially talked to, took appellant to a private room to talk, where McGuire told him that he knew who had killed Joy Stewart. McGuire stated that Jerry Richardson, McGuire's brother-in-law, had killed Joy with a knife, and appellant could lead investigators to it. McGuire explained to Officer Goodwin that Richardson had wanted to have sex with Joy, but she had refused. McGuire claimed that Richardson then pulled a knife on her, and forced her to have oral sex with him. McGuire then said Richardson anally sodomized her because he "couldn't have regular sex with her because she was pregnant." He also said Richardson stabbed her "in the shoulder bone" and "cut her throat."

Based on these details, Goodwin contacted Investigator Lindloff, who talked to McGuire on December 22, 1989. McGuire told Lindloff that Richardson committed the murder, that he stabbed Joy twice in the neck, and that "the first time it didn't go in. He pulled the knife back out and stuck her again." Lindloff was interested, since the fact that Joy had been stabbed twice in the neck and anally sodomized had not been revealed to the public at that time. The appellant also described in detail the area where Joy's body had been found.

McGuire then led Lindloff and deputies to the murder weapon, on a local farm where he and Richardson had occasionally worked. McGuire led the officers to the hayloft and showed them where a knife was hidden behind a beam.

A subsequent audiotaped interview by Deputy Swihart elicited further details from McGuire. McGuire claimed that Richardson choked Joy before stabbing her and wiped his bloody hands off on her, both of which actions were consistent with the state of Joy's body at the crime scene. Again, Swihart felt that these details were significant, since they had never become a matter of public knowledge. Furthermore, McGuire stated that he was pretty sure that Richardson was driving his mother's blue Ford Escort the day of the murder. However Richardson's mother later testified at trial that she had traded that car in 1988, a year before the murder, and Richardson did not have access to her car on the day of the murder, since she had driven it to work.

While in prison on December 24, 1989, McGuire received a visit from his childhood friend Shawn Baird. At the time, McGuire told Baird that he knew about a murder that happened in Preble County in February. When Baird asked who did it, the appellant stated that he and Jerry Richardson had done it, and he was going to blame it all on Jerry.

A fellow inmate at the Preble County Jail, Jack Stapleton, testified that he had overheard a conversation between McGuire and another inmate, in which McGuire claimed that he had seen his brother-in-law rape and murder Joy. However, at one point, McGuire apparently slipped and implicated himself when telling the story. While describing the murder, Stapleton testified that McGuire "had his hand like this describing [sic], telling the guy how she was killed. And he said I--he goes I mean he. Stabbed her like this. Hit a bone. It didn't kill her. So he stabbed her again."

McGuire was later transferred to Madison Correctional Institute. An inmate there, Willie Reeves, testified that McGuire told him that while he was cleaning gutters, Joy showed up asking whether McGuire had any marijuana. McGuire offered to share some with her, and they left in his car. At one point McGuire asked whether she wanted to have sex, and she refused. McGuire then told Reeves he did it anyway. He then explained that because she was so pregnant, it was difficult to engage in sex with her, so instead he anally sodomized her. Joy then became "hysterical," which made McGuire nervous. He ended up killing Joy for fear that he would go to jail for raping a pregnant woman.

In June 1992, the Montgomery County Coroner's Office sent the vaginal, anal, and oral swabs collected from Joy's body, along with a cutting from her underpants, to Forensic Science Associates, a private laboratory, for DNA testing using the PCR technique. 1 A forensic scientist there compared DNA extracted from the samples with blood samples taken from Dennis McGuire, Jerry Richardson, Joy Stewart, and Joy's husband, Kenny Stewart. The scientist determined that McGuire could not be eliminated as a source of the sperm. Kenny Stewart and Richardson, however, could be eliminated, unless there were two sperm sources, e.g., multiple assailants. This was because the sperm analyzed contained a DQ Alpha type 3, 4, with a trace amount of DQ Alpha type 1.1, 2. McGuire's DNA was the DQ Alpha type 3, 4, whereas Richardson, Stewart, and the victim's DNA was the DQ Alpha type 1.1, 2. The forensic scientist testified that the trace amount of 1.1, 2 could have resulted either from Joy's epithelial cells taken in the swab, or from a secondary sperm source. The sperm DNA analyzed had characteristics that appear in about one in one hundred nineteen males in the white population.

On December 22, 1993, McGuire was indicted on one count of aggravated murder under R.C. 2903.01(B), with one felony-murder specification for rape under R.C. 2929.04(A)(7). McGuire was also indicted on two counts of rape (vaginal and anal) and one count of kidnapping.

On December 8, 1994, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the aggravated murder and specification charge. McGuire was also convicted of anal rape and kidnapping. After a sentencing hearing, the jury recommended a sentence of death for the aggravated murder. The trial judge sentenced the appellant to death, and the court of appeals affirmed.

The cause is now before this court upon an appeal as of right.

Rebecca J. Ferguson, Preble County Prosecuting Attorney, K. Brent Copeland, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael L. Collyer, Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

David H. Bodiker, Ohio Public Defender, Joseph E. Wilhelm and Tracey A. Leonard, Assistant Public Defenders, for appellant.


Appellant has raised eighteen ...

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