Trimble takes stand and apologizes for actions

The 50th day of the James E. Trimble murder trial took a dramatic turn as Trimble took the stand yesterday and apologized for his crimes.

“I am truly sorry for what I did,” he said. “Living with the fact I killed them is all I think of.”

Trimble, 45, was previously found guilty on three counts of aggravated murder for the deaths of his live-in girlfriend Renee Bauer, her seven-year-old son Dakota and Kent State student Sarah Positano. He read a written statement to the jury that expressed his remorse.

“I would give anything to bring them back,” Trimble said of his victims. “Everything I have has been sacrificed because I couldn’t live without drugs … by the time I moved back to Ohio (in 2003), my favorite drug, meth, was being cooked all over. It’s hard to explain how it takes over your life.”

Trimble said he wondered why “God did not strike me down” when he became addicted and instead allowed him to continue on his downward spiral.

“I wish I knew what happened that night, and I’m sorry I can’t explain it to the families,” Trimble said, regarding his inability to recall the actual killings. “I’m hoping I can help others to take a different road than the road I chose.”

His drug use began at an early age, Trimble said, and his use of methamphetamines began at age 20. He said the methamphetamines helped him feel invincible and work hard, which pleased his employers.

Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci addressed the jury, urging them to consider multiple aggravating circumstances regarding the murders. The circumstances surrounding the Positano murder, he said, included Trimble’s kidnapping of Positano and burglary of her residence.

“Each aggravated circumstance must be assigned the weight you feel it is entitled,” Vigluicci told the jury. “I think when you do that, you will come to the conclusion that the aggravating circumstances far outweigh any evidence you’ve heard.”

Vigluicci said it would then be the jury’s duty to return a verdict of death on each count.

Defense attorney Dennis Lager asked the jury to consider what punishment would be most appropriate.

“What is the right thing to do? How will you punish Trimble?” he asked. “Do you vote for death or vote for life?”

Lager said the law tells the jury nothing and asked them to look at the greater picture, not just the 24 hours of events in January. Lager outlined Trimble’s medical history and drug use, citing multiple psychologists who had given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a psychological condition that causes extreme shifts in mood.

“I tried to educate you as to what drug addiction is,” Lager said to the jury, citing “the pernicious evils of methamphetamines, a different kind of drug from any other that exists.”

“We learned that when we talk about voluntary intoxication … that with respect to addiction, you are congenitally wired,” Lager said. “We know that the area of the brain which controls the addiction is the same area that controls thirst, hunger and sex drive.”

Lager reminded the jury that expert testimony indicated that the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency has declared meth to be the most addictive and dangerous drug on the street and is in “a class by itself.” Lager went on to cite the testimony of former addict David Parnell, who had said, “when you get that way (addicted to meth), you can’t control it; you can’t stop it.”

Lager said the death penalty might be appropriate for serial killers, terrorists or predators, “but that’s not what we have in this case, is it?” Lager said Trimble did not get up out of bed and decide that he was going to kill three people that day.

“Do we kill him because he’s an addict?” Lager asked.

Vigluicci rebutted with skepticism about the relevance of either the bipolar condition or the meth addiction, saying the defense’s hiring of psychologists backfired.

“They (the psychologists) both relied heavily on the self-serving statements of the defendant,” Vigluicci said. “His own mother was unaware of any mental problems, except for a visit to a family doctor.”

Vigluicci told the jury that the bipolar condition, even if true, was irrelevant.

“But so what? What weight is that entitled to in this process?” Vigluicci said. “It deserves little or no weight in your balancing of the aggravated circumstances and mitigating factors.”

Vigluicci had similar comments about the alleged meth addiction.

“There’s lots of meth users and abusers out there,” Vigluicci told the jury, “but they’re not murderers. Is meth equated with murder? Since when? Did that meth have any cause? No more than the fact that he wears eyeglasses and has brown hair.”

The morning testimony dealt with the issues of Trimble’s alleged bipolar condition and drug addiction. Defense witness Jeffrey Smalldon, a forensic psychologist, testified Trimble does have a bipolar disorder that contributed to his actions on the night of the killings. Smalldon also was called upon to testify that Trimble’s alleged meth addiction had an affect on his mindset as well.

Francis Ricciardi, Portage County’s chief criminal prosecutor, cross-examined Smalldon extensively in an attempt to show a lack of definitive evidence to prove that Trimble is bipolar or that drug addiction had robbed him of his mental faculties on the night of the killings.

Sentencing will resume at 9 a.m. today at the Portage County courthouse. Judge John Enlow will give the jury instructions before they are sequestered for deliberation on Trimble’s ultimate fate.

Trimble faces life in prison with or without parole or the death penalty, which requires an unanimous verdict from the jury.

Contact public affairs reporters Josh Echt at [email protected] and Greg M. Schwartz at [email protected].