Jury will decide fate of convicted Mentor-on-the-Lake killer Joseph Thomas

PAINESVILLE, Ohio - Nine defense witnesses took the stand in the sentencing phase of convicted killer Joseph Thomas Wednesday in Lake County Common Pleas Court.

Thomas was convicted of killing 49-year-old Annie McSween at the Mentor-On-The-Lake bar where she worked. She was found dead on Nov. 26, 2010 near what was then called Mario's Lakeway Lounge on Andrews Road.

Thomas's mother, Verna Rodriguez, took the stand Wednesday morning in an effort to spare her son from the death penalty. She told the jury she was a crack addict, alcoholic who left her three small children.

"I was dropped off to spend the weekend, my mom never came back," testified James Thomas, Joe Thomas' brother.

Rodriguez also testified that her kids were left to care for themselves and that she left the kids behind and moved to Seattle with a boyfriend.

Thomas's sister, Tessa Rodgers, testified their father abandoned them. "I consider him a sperm donor."

Witnesses told the jury that Rodriguez went from one bad relationship to another had many relationships with different men and that all three children, including Thomas, were exposed to violence, drug abuse and excessive drinking.

James Thomas told the jury,   "we pretty much raised ourselves," he said.

The defense is expected to call 11 witnesses.

Jurors will decide if Joseph Thomas receives life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.

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