ELYRIA, Ohio - Elyria residents and members of the judicial system found a lunch topic in Donna's Diner centering on a murder case almost 30 years old.
Convicted murderer Ronald Post has been on Ohio's death row since 1983, but his attorneys have recently filed in federal court to avoid his January execution by lethal injection. The motion is, in part, because he's too obese for medical personnel to administer pentobarbital to his veins successfully without undue pain and suffering. They also cited concerns about a gurney being able to support him.
The murder of a hotel clerk, Helen Vance, in 1983 shocked this then quiet Lorain County city. Donna Dove was in her 20s then, but remembers the case about a woman who was killed in cold blood. Post's latest legal move has residents upset; shocked that he hadn't been executed already.
"I know I was upset then because it was the Slumber Inn. That's where I spent my wedding night," Dove said. "Find a way to do it; people can overdose on drugs so why can't they find a way to give him enough to just put him out. Use two gurneys if he's too big."
Post was found with his fingerprints on the gun used in the murder. Its bullet striations matched those found in the victim's skull.
Former Elyria policeman Jim Frame remembers Post riding motorcycles around Elyria before the murder.
"He never flaunted his size, but he was a big guy even then," said Frame. "It was a surprise back then because I never thought he was able to do something like that." Frame shakes his head that Post is still in the news for such a brutal murder he witnessed being investigated by detectives.
"Ron Post--he shouldn't be here. He killed a girl. There’s no doubt about it, shot her in the head for a hundred bucks. They should have killed him years ago,” said Frame.
Elyria Police Lt. Andy Eichenlaub wasn't working in 1983, but understands the frustration felt by victim's families and his colleagues over long judicial system cases.
"The wheels of justice turn slow. First and foremost is the safety of the community. Investigating violent crime to make an arrest, an appropriate arrest, quickly, to make the community safer, is paramount," said Eichenlaub.
"The system is the system we work with. It has its goods and its bads, and sometimes when it takes a long to time for a case to come to justice, it can be frustrating for police. It can be frustrating for the victims' family. Ultimately, it's in the protection of the rights of the accused and it's up to the courts to determine that timeline."
There have been numerous weight-related execution cases filed by death row prisoners, most notably that of Mitchell Rupe of Washington state in 1994. A judge then ruled his 400-pound frame could cause him to be decapitated because at the time Washington hanged its prisoners. A federal judge upheld his conviction, but sentenced him to life in prison where later he died in 2006.
Ohio courts have not changed an execution due to a prisoner's weight issues since instituting lethal injection following decades of electric chair use. Post is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 16.
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