Complications delay local murder investigations

Jacob Stockdale

Kent State and the surrounding area has been connected to a multitude of murders and killings over the past year, either through proximity or academic connections.

Multiple students have been killed in separate incidents, and a number of killings have happened near the university’s campus. In most cases, investigations are ongoing and charges have yet to be filed, or there is little to no movement in court proceedings. 

  

Jacob Stockdale Case

The Jacob Stockdale case has been in limbo since Jacob allegedly shot his mother, Kathryn Stockdale, and his brother, James Stockdale, a Kent State business administration student, in what Stark police said is a double homicide.

Police investigating a 911 hang-up call on June 15 arrived at the home of the Stockdale family in Bethlehem Township, where officers found James Stockdale and 54-year-old Kathryn Stockdale dead.

Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero said the investigation is still ongoing and, once the results are finalized, he and Stark County Sheriff George Maier can proceed from there.

William Jones, an inspector with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, plans to meet with prosecutors within the next week to discuss charges. He said his department will make recommendations, but that official charges would come from the prosecutor’s office and the grand jury.

He believes Stockdale will be charged with something related to murder or manslaughter. Jones couldn’t say when he expected Stockdale to be charged, but that it probably wouldn’t be in the next week.

The Stark County Coroner’s Office confirmed that the autopsy reports for Kathryn and James have been finalized, but could not be released due to the pending investigation.

Stockdale has been hospitalized for months after he allegedly attempted to kill himself at the scene of the crime. Jones said he hasn’t received an update on his medical condition, but that wouldn’t impede the presentation of charges.

Jones, however, could not say whether Stark County Jail could adequately care for Stockdale if he became incarcerated there. If the jail cannot care for him, Jones said other arrangements could be made.

George Brinkman Case

After starting the court proceedings more than three months ago, George Brinkman Jr. is still only in the pretrial phase of prosecution for his alleged role in a triple murder.

On June 11, Taylor Pifer, a Kent State fashion design student, was found dead in her mother’s house on Ridge Road in North Royalton, Ohio, along with Pifer’s mother, 45-year-old Suzanne Taylor, and her sister, 18-year-old Kylie Pifer, who studied biology at Bowling Green State University, who were also killed.

Brinkman was later apprehended and charged with the family’s murder: 13 counts of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping and offenses against a human corpse.

Brinkman, 45, had his arraignment June 30 at the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, where he pleaded not guilty. Judge Brendan Sheehan also revoked Brinkman’s bond, originally set at $75 million.

Since then, Brinkman had six pretrials and has another scheduled for Sept. 28.

According to court dockets through the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, the reason for continuance is at the attorney’s request for more time to research the case further, which has been cited each time.

There have also been three state subpoenas issued and a request for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to provide any and all documentation in its possession regarding Brinkman, such as medical records, disciplinary records and psychiatric records, to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office for purposes of discovery.

If convicted, Brinkman would be eligible for the death penalty, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

A motion was filed Aug. 28 by Fernando Mack, one of Brinkman’s attorney’s, to dismiss the capital components of the case “due to constitutional and international law violations.” That motion was later denied by Judge Peter Corrigan of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 5.

Following his next pretrial on Sept. 28, Brinkman’s trial date has been set for March 26, 2018, by Corrigan. In addition, Corrigan ordered the defense’s expert source report to be finished by Dec. 29, 2017, and the state experts report due by Jan. 31, 2018. The motion hearing is set for March 21, 2018, according to court dockets.

Separately, on June 13, the Stark County Sheriff’s Department charged Brinkman with the deaths of a Stark County couple — Rogell Eugene John, 71, and his wife, Roberta Ray John, 64, — who were found dead June 12 in their Lake Township home.

Inspector William Jones with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office said they still intend for Brinkman to be charged in Stark for murders at some point.

Javon Thomas Case

Javon Thomas is still awaiting trial in the Portage County Jail after double murders in Cuyahoga Falls. Thomas is accused of killing Brian Brack, 24, of Canton and Austin Tiller, 20, of Cuyahoga Falls in January of this year.

When police arrived on the scene Jan. 10, they found Brack and Tiller dead, in addition to another woman who was shot, but sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Thomas was arraigned in the Portage County Courthouse by Judge Laurie Pittman on Jan. 13. Since then, there have been 21 other pretrial, discovery hearings and status conferences.

One of the most recent pretrials took place Sept. 18. During this hearing, Thomas’ attorney Thomas DiCaudo tried to argue to keep the evidence from self-defense expert witness Gary Rini.

Rini was under subpoena and failed to show up to argue to keep his work on file for the trial. Pittman and the state expressed their dislike of the report.

“This is the worse expert report I have ever seen,” Pittman said to the defense during the hearing. “There is nothing here for you to hang your hat on, nor for the state to tear apart.”

Pittman said the report lacked any evidence to prove Thomas was acting in self-defense at the time of both murders, due to its poor execution and lack of specifics.

Pittman determined this evidence was not going to be allowed into trial, and Thomas’ attorneys were denied his request to have Rini add to the report.

The criminal trial is set for Oct. 3 at 8:30 a.m. at the Portage County Courthouse.

Jayquon Tillman Case

It’s been nearly four months after Jayquon Tillman was fatally shot at a house party near Kent State, and authorities are still working to identify those responsible for the young student’s death.

The Portage County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the shooting, but don’t expect any arrests to be made in the immediate future, said Captain Larry Limbert. He said because the investigation is ongoing and open, he couldn’t release any information about potential suspects or leads.

Limbert said it was too early to predict any potential charges that would be made in the shooting. He said the department is following all leads and working through a lot of information related to the case.

The 18-year-old student from Eastern Michigan University was shot late into the night on Friday, May 5. Portage County sheriff’s deputies were at the scene to try and quiet the party when Tillman and another woman were shot, according to Cleveland.com.

Tillman was well-regarded among his peers at Eastern Michigan. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, the Kings of Color student organization and involved with the Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper group’s Young Brother’s Leadership Council.

After his death, many of his peers took to social media to share their grief. A GoFundMe account was started to help his family shoulder funeral costs. Tillman was the oldest of four siblings.

Jenna Kuczkowski is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected] Andrew Keiper is the enterprise editor. Contact him at [email protected] Contact Anthony Dworning at [email protected]