‘I don’t want to die’

Natalie Pillsbury

911 call played for jury; neighbors, roommate testify

RAVENNA – The final wish of Sarah Positano was to speak to her mom, as the jurors heard on the recording of the Jan. 22 call to 911 the morning of her death.

The recording was played yesterday in the Portage County Common Pleas Court.

Family and friends, including Positano’s mother, reacted with tears and emotional outpouring.

“I’m scared,” Positano was heard saying on the tape. “I don’t want to die.”

James E. Trimble, 45, of Brimfield, who has been charged with Positano’s death, appeared to cry, and his whole body was shaking as he listened to the 911 recording.

Trial began yesterday with the continued testimony of Jonathan Gardner, forensic scientist for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification. Along with hearing the tape, the court also heard from both Positano’s roommate and neighbor.

The call

On the 911 tape, jurors heard Positano’s voice repeatedly say that she had a gun to her head. She asked the dispatcher, Heather Turner, to tell her roommates not to come home.

The call was made at 11:18 p.m., the first call Turner took on her shift that night.

Turner, a 911 operator with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, stayed on the line with Positano, trying to calm her and direct officers to the apartment at 3729 Ranfield Road.

“I’ve got the hammer held and the trigger pulled,” Trimble said on the tape, referring to the weapon he had trained on Positano.

“If they (police) try to come in, bad things are going to happen,” he said.

Trimble gave his cell phone number to the dispatcher, and was contacted by an officer.

He asked police to back off.

“He’s going to let me go in two hours,” Positano said.

Turner transferred Positano to an officer, who also tried to calm her. She seemed to be breathing easier and more calm, when she cried out suddenly.

“I’m shot,” she was heard screaming on the 911 recording.

Positano fell silent, and the officer continued saying her name and trying to reach her.

It was apparent when Positano died.

The investigation

In Gardner’s testimony, he said he examined the clothing of Renee Bauer and her 7-year-old son, Dakota, for gunshot residue.

Gardner said that there was a presence of lead surrounding the bulletholes in Renee’s jacket and track pants. This is indicated by a pink coloration around the holes, he said.

The bullet holes in Dakota’s clothing, however, contained no lead component.

“This may happen as it (bullet) passes through an intermediate target,” Gardner said.

The neighbors

Positano’s neighbor Steven Reichard, of 3573 Ranfield Road, said on the stand that he encountered a man wearing camouflage and carrying a gun the night of the shootings.

“I was going in the house when I heard a branch break to the right,” Reichard said. “I sent the dog out, but he didn’t bark. I walked over to him, and I saw the silhouette of a man standing there.”

Reichard asked him if he was crazy. The man replied, “That’s right I’m crazy; I just killed three people.”

The man said, “The only thing I can tell you is you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Reichard said.

Reichard’s mother, Lois Scott, came outside. Reichard told her, “This man has a gun, and he’s going to shoot me.”

The man threatened to take Reichard hostage, and Reichard said that was not an option.

The man then threatened to take Reichard’s wife hostage, and Reichard said this also was not an option.

Reichard told the man to turn around and walk away.

The man left Reichard and Scott unharmed, and they went inside to call 911.

Defense attorney John P. Laczko referred to the written statement Reichard prepared for the police on Jan. 24, which recounted the events of January 21.

Laczko said that there was no reference in Reichard’s statement to the man saying he had killed three people or to any threats of hostage taking.

Reichard said he cut the statement short.

Scott also testified and told a similar story.

Earlier that day

The next witness was Kristin Kochajda, Positano’s best friend and roommate. Kochajda is a graduate student and assistant at Kent State.

The last time Kochajda saw Positano was around 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 21. Positano was sitting at her computer and drinking tea, Kochajda said.

When Kochajda tried to return to the apartment she shared with Positano and Jessica James, Ranfield Road was blocked.

Positano’s boyfriend, Mark Lensman of St. Paris, was the last to testify yesterday.

He said that he and Positano fought on Jan. 21 over the fact that he wouldn’t allow her to drive down to see him that night because of the snowy weather.

They later reconciled during their last conversation at about 11:15 p.m., which lasted about a half an hour.

Positano dialed 911 about a half hour later.

Contact public affairs reporter Natalie Pillsbury at [email protected].