Akron: Denny Ross retrial in Hill murder underway

7:38 PM, Aug 20, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON --- Day One in the retrial of Denny Ross is over. Judge Judy Hunter adjourned court for the evening just after 4 p.m. Monday following more than two hours of testimony.

The jury will have Tuesdays off throughout the trial as Tuesdays are Hunter's criminal call day. The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Monday morning saw the jury visit defendant Denny Ross's former apartment on Canton Road and were also taken to Caine Road, where Hannah Hill's body was found in the trunk of her Geo Prizm.

That's how the retrial of Ross got underway. Ross, 33, is accused of murdering Hannah Hill, 18, of Kenmore, who was found beaten, raped and murdered on May 19, 1999. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter is presiding over the case.

Her body was found in the trunk of her gold Geo Prizm six days after she was reported missing. Ross is charged with murder, felonious assault and abuse of a corpse.

After the jury returned from lunch, both the prosecution and the defense presented their opening statements.

Prosecutors say that Ross is guilty because his DNA was found on her clothing and under her fingernails. Prosecutors also said a garbage bag with items of Hill's clothing and her purse was found outside Ross's Canton Road apartment.

Defense attorneys say that Ross is not guilty. He admits kissing and messing around with Hill, which explains why his DNA was found on her. His attorney also said Hill's boyfriend, Brad O'Born, was abusive to her and they had fought the day he saw her.

Defense attorneys also said the garbage bag found outside Ross's apartment did not match the garbage bags he had inside the apartment.

The state called Kimberly Hill, the victim's mother, as its first witness. Hill detailed Hannah's behavior on May 19, after she returned home from work.

After eating dinner with her mother and spending time in her room, Hannah redressed, ready to leave her home around 9:30 p.m. Kimberly Hill described Hannah as, "having a scared look on her face." Kimberly Hill said, "[Hannah] said, 'I'll be back Mom. I'm just going out for a little bit.'" She did not say where she was going, but possibly to an unidentified friend's house.

Kimberly Hill testified she didn't worry about her daughter until a supervisor from Hannah's job at Diebold called before noon May 20 to say Hannah did not report to work that morning.

Kimberly Hill said Brad O'Born called her a couple times that day, asking if Hannah had ever come back home. "He sort of seemed nervous," she testified. It was not common for him to call the Hills. O'Born had never been to their home, and met Hannah's mother only once before.

When Hannah was hospitalized in February of 1999, the Hills did not allow O'Born to visit her. "My husband just didn't want him in there," said Kimberly Hill. "We just didn't trust him...Just wasn't a person that you trust much."

Kimberly Hill filed a missing person's report with the Akron Police Department the evening of May 20.

The state called John Nouse, a former Akron police officer, to the stand. Nouse was the officer who visited the Hills' home to file the missing person's report. Nouse clarified that Mrs. Hill reported there were other situations where Hannah did not return home, but her mother was not concerned in those situations because Hannah always showed up at work.

The state also called Akron Police Sgt. Jeffrey Mullens to the stand to explain police training for processing crime scenes and writing police reports. He also explained how crime scenes are preserved and documented.

The state will continue to present its evidence when the trial resumes Wednesday, August 22, at 9 a.m.

Ross was originally charged with beating, raping and strangling Hill on May 19, 1999. Ross went on trial in 2000 for Hill's murder, but a judge declared a mistrial after learning that the jurors had discussed a lie detector test-- evidence that was not presented during the trial.

It was later learned that the jurors had voted to acquit Ross on the murder counts, but the verdicts were never read in open court. After more than a decade of appeals from Ross's attorneys, in December 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Ross could stand trial again.

The court declared that a second trial would not constitute double-jeopardy, however, the death penalty will not be considered in the second trial.

Ross' second trial was originally scheduled to take place in the fall of 2011, but has been delayed twice.

While on probation following the Hill trial, Ross brutally raped an Akron woman in 2004. Ross was convicted of rape, attempted murder and assault and is currently serving a 25-year sentence.

Special prosecutors from Cuyahoga County were assigned to the current case because the Summit County Prosecutor's office has a conflict of interest with the victim's family.

New DNA evidence has since been presented to the court by the prosecution, which prosecutors believe will present a stronger case this time around.


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