Pleas made for Trimble

Kristin Lindsey

RAVENNA – The sentencing phase in the triple-murder trial of James E. Trimble began yesterday as the defense tried to show jurors “James Trimble the human being” through testimony from Trimble’s family and acquaintances.

Last week, jurors found Trimble, 45, guilty of three counts of aggravated murder for the deaths of his live-in girlfriend Renee Bauer, her 7-year-old son Dakota and Kent State student Sarah Positano. Trimble also was convicted of three counts of kidnapping, two counts of felonious assault and one count of burglary.

After the prosecution and defense teams show their evidence, which will not include graphic body photos, jurors will decide Trimble’s fate. They can recommend a life sentence with a chance for parole after 25 or 30 years, life in prison without parole, or they can sentence Trimble to death.

Defense attorney Dennis Lager urged jurors to “vote to save a life rather than vote to end one.” Lager again motioned for a mistrial, objecting to prosecution assertions that Trimble had a bad conduct discharge from the military, and he served six months of hard labor. Judge John Enlow ordered jurors not to consider the information and declined to declare a mistrial.

Lager said he plans to present evidence that wasn’t available during the trial, including the fact that Trimble’s psychological disorders cut his ability to behave within the law.

The defense’s first witness was Trimble’s mother, Elizabeth Trimble Bresley. She portrayed him as a good student who loved nature. But Bresley said Trimble and another student were dismissed from school in 11th grade for having marijuana.

Bresley also told the court about her son’s Air Force time and his life in Texas. Bresley testified Trimble had been married twice before meeting Renee. Trimble and his first wife of five years had a little girl who Trimble later found out was not his biological daughter, Bresley said. She added that Trimble continued to care for the girl, Kameron Trimble, after the divorce. Trimble’s second marriage, which lasted 14 years, also ended in divorce.

Later, Bresley testified that she first became aware of her son’s bipolar condition in 2003 when she went with him to see their family doctor. Bresley said the doctor diagnosed Trimble as bipolar and prescribed the drug Wellbutrin, which is used to balance chemical imbalances. Bresley said Trimble went to counseling but received no treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Bresley also described a visit Trimble had to Robinson Memorial Hospital in June 2004 she said might have involved drug use and treatment.

Then, Bresley pleaded for jurors to spare her son’s life. She said she feels Trimble has a lot to offer people in prison because of his experience as a handyman.

“He can teach them a trade,” Bresley said. “It’s hard for them if they don’t have a trade when they get out.”

The defense also called witnesses to testify as to Trimble’s work ethic while he worked on various properties in Portage and Summit counties.

Mark Brazle, a minister at Church in the Falls, said Trimble went to church there regularly and often brought Renee and Dakota Bauer. Dakota particularly enjoyed the children’s Bible hour, Brazle said.

But Brazle also said some elderly church members said they smelled alcohol in the pew where Trimble sat during the Christmas program. Brazle said he did not confront Trimble.

During Trimble’s incarceration, Brazle said he has visited Trimble weekly, bringing the church newsletter, teaching materials and copies of hymns to the jail at Trimble’s request. He said he’s helped Trimble “come to terms with what happened and realize God’s forgiveness is available even though he has a hard time forgiving himself.”

Court adjourned for the day shortly after lunch, but testimony from five expert witnesses and psychologists will continue at 9 a.m. today.

Contact public affairs reporter Kristin Lindsey at [email protected].