Trimble sentenced to death on all counts

RAVENNA – James E. Trimble left Portage County Common Pleas Court saying “I love you mom,” after he was sentenced to the death penalty on three counts of aggravated murder yesterday.

The jury entered into deliberation at approximately 9:30 a.m. yesterday and reached a verdict at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Onlookers reacted emotionally after the verdict was read, and one audience member said, “See ya,” as Trimble was escorted from the courtroom. Trimble turned to respond but was lead away by a deputy.

Trimble, 45, of Brimfield was found guilty Oct. 25 for the murders of Renee Bauer, 42, her 7-year-old son Dakota and Kent State student Sarah Positano, 22.

The trial, which began Sept. 19, was the longest one in Portage County that Judge John A. Enlow could remember. Yesterday was the 51st day.

Some of the jurors, who were not allowed to speak about the case during its duration, were eager to discuss the case with each other. Jurors Erik and Tom spoke on the condition that they only be identified by their first name to protect their reputation.

“I made sure to keep an open mind,” said juror Erik, 25, of Suffield.

He said the state, lead by prosecutor Victor Vigluicci, did a good a job representing its side.

“They were able to punch holes in every argument the defense had, and didn’t leave much of a doubt,” Erik said. “There was very minimal argument. We just basically sat down and discussed.”

Erik said during both phases of deliberation the jurors each asked a question and the rest of them answered. No one was against the death penalty, but the issue was executing his or her beliefs. During jury selection, any potential juror who openly opposed capital punishment was excused.

“They were like, ‘I know that I want to sign it, I want to do it,’ but they just got emotional,” Erik said.

Tom, 28, of Ravenna, said there were two strong moments, which were turning points in his decision. The first was hearing the 911 tape, which documented Sarah Positano’s final moments, for the first time.

When the tape was played for the jurors on Oct. 14, Tom said he watched the bailiff and other court staff react emotionally to Positano’s pleas and it was an eye-opening experience.

“I had to go out and drink after I heard it the second time it was played,” Erik said. “And everyone else didn’t have to hear it a couple more times.”

The second moment was the defense’s last witness, ballistics expert Larry Dehus.

“What really got me about the defense’s expert was his demeanor. He seemed like he came in a little on the cocky side, trying to prove all the things that the prosecution said wrong,” he said. “But he couldn’t even determine which direction was north.

“When the crime scene investigator came in, he came in with diagrams. And he had every piece of evidence labeled where it was in the house. And the defense’s expert comes in with a drawing in pencil.”

The whole point of trying to prove there was a shot fired in the house would mean that Positano’s death could be accidental. Defense attorney Dennis Lager said in opening statements that he wanted to prove this accidental death.

“I pointed out to other jurors that the bullet hole Dehus was lining up trying to prove it came from inside the house couldn’t line up with a ruler. He couldn’t connect the dots,” Tom said.

The evidence that sealed Erik’s decision was the placement of the rifle Trimble used as a murder weapon.

“He had to go all the way downstairs, unlock the safe. And you can see that he took the rifle from the far right of the safe, instead of just reaching in grabbing one, which means that he thought about which one he wanted.”

During the past week, several character witnesses, including Trimble and his mother, testified to convince the jury to choose a life sentence.

“Trimble’s statement has no impact on me,” Erik said. “To me the whole problem with drugs is no excuse. It didn’t give him the right to do what he did.”

Today was more emotional for jurors, Tom said, because they knew they had a hard decision to make.

“There wasn’t a lot of discussion trying to prove to people what sentence he deserved, it was that certain people (jurors) had to bring themselves to terms with what they had to do,” Tom said. “It took a bit of emotional support to make them comfortable with the decision they had to make.”

Tom said during deliberations over the guilty verdict that one person needed convincing to convict Trimble of guilty on a count.

“He really had a valid point. But it took one person to say something to him to see what we were getting at. When that happened, he just sat back and said that was all he needed.”

Contact public affairs reporters Kimberly Dick at [email protected] and Natalie Pillsbury at [email protected].