Defense claims shootings were ‘accidental’

Josh Echt

Portage County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci gives his opening remarks as County Common Pleas Judge John A. Enlow watches over on Friday.

Credit: Jason Hall


  • James E. Trimble, 45, is charged with shooting 42-year-old Renee Bauer, her 7-year-old son, Dakota, and 22-year-old Kent State student Sarah Positano. He is indicted on 17 counts, including three counts of aggravated murder.
  • If he is convicted of these charges, he could face the death penalty.

RAVENNA – It is now a matter of life or death for James E. Trimble.

Trimble killed three people in January, said Public Defender Dennis D. Lager. However, Lager wants to prove the deaths were drug-induced, and two were accidental.

If the defense proves its case, the court will drop the charges from aggravated murder to murder, Lager said. If Trimble is convicted of murder, he would receive a life sentence. However, if convicted of aggravated murder, Judge John A. Enlow could instruct the jury to consider the specifications of sentencing Trimble to death.

Defense lawyers entered a plea of guilty by reason of insanity prior to jury selection but later withdrew it.

In the prosecution’s opening statement, Portage County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci said he hopes to prove Trimble intentionally murdered the three victims.

The trial continues today with the start of evidence presentation at the Portage County Common Pleas courtroom in Ravenna. Both the prosecution and the defense presented their opening statements to Enlow and the jury Friday. Prior to the statements, the 12 jurors and four alternates were bused to the crime scenes in Brimfield Township for jury viewing.

Trimble, 45, is charged with shooting his live-in girlfriend Renee Bauer, 42, her seven-year-old son, Dakota, and 22-year-old Kent State student Sarah Positano Jan. 21 and 22. He is indicted on 17 counts, including three counts of aggravated murder.

Positano was shot at 12:04 a.m. Jan. 22 after Trimble fled by foot into the student’s residence on Ranfield Road and held her hostage.

In his statement, Lager said Trimble accidentally killed Positano and seven-year-old Dakota.

Lager said he wants to prove Trimble did not have “prior calculation and design” – or intent – to kill Renee Bauer. There was a domestic dispute leading up to Bauer’s murder.

Trimble’s alleged drug problems may have caused his actions, Lager said. The defense said Trimble took 1.75 grams of methamphetamines at about 4 p.m. Jan. 21, four hours before he killed Renee and Dakota Bauer. The evidence will not show Trimble intentionally caused the deaths of Dakota and Positano, Lager said.

Vigluicci argued the contrary.

“He shot her (Bauer) 13 times from an assault rifle in his arsenal,” Vigluicci said.

The prosecution said it will try to show to jurors that Bauer tried to protect her son by standing between him and Trimble. Trimble had an arsenal of weapons, including an Uzi, as well as high-powered ammunition in the basement, Vigluicci said.

“It’s a terrible and gruesome story, but it’s what he did,” Vigluicci said.

However, Lager claimed reckless tactics killed Positano.

“The SWAT team received a Delta Order, which said, ‘You have permission to kill Trimble’,” Lager said.

He said he wants to prove Trimble negotiated Positano’s release. Trimble believed the SWAT team had not negotiated in good faith and had inserted a sniper into the building, Lager said.

“Trimble was hiding in the apartment with the gun against Sarah’s head,” Lager said. “He saw the sniper and let loose with the SIG Sauer pistol.”

Trimble then dropped the pistol, which has no safety, so he could fire his assault rifle at approaching officers with both hands, Lager said. As he dropped the pistol, it discharged, killing Positano.

Trimble was involved in a allegedly violent domestic dispute with Bauer before he shot her, Lager said

“The bullets that struck Dakota were a result of erratic rounds fired,” Lager said.

Lager said he hopes to prove the .223 caliber, high-velocity rounds fired by Trimble were not meant for Dakota.

As he left Bauer’s house he ran into the woods, shooting at police.

Brimfield Township police responded to calls at 9:02 p.m. The department deployed two officers to 880 Sandy Lake Rd., where Bauer and Trimble lived, Vigluicci said.

A Brimfield officer headed for the wooded area near Ranfield Road upon receiving a 911 call from neighbor Steven Reichard and his mother, Lois Scott, who were threatened with Timble’s AR-15 rifle but let go.

“Two Tallmadge police officers were shot at near Reichert’s house,” Vigluicci said. “They heard the gunfire hitting tree branches around them. It got closer as they neared Trimble.”

Other officers from local departments responded to the scene, but Vigluicci said the police were outgunned at that point.

“Police have handguns and some shotguns, but no assault rifles,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Josh Echt at [email protected].



  • Jan. 21 – Neighbors hear gunshots at 880 Sandy Lake Road. Police find Dakota and Renee Bauer dead. After fleeing police while shooting at them for more than two hours, Trimble breaks into Positano’s Ranfield Road home and holds her hostage.
  • Jan. 22 – Just after midnight a gunshot is heard at Positano’s residence. Later that morning, Trimble is taken into custody.
  • Feb. 7 – Trimble is arraigned and pleads not guilty by reason of insanity.
  • July 12 – Originally scheduled trial date, which was postponed.
  • Sept. 19 – Jury selection begins.
  • Sept. 20 – Trimble retracts his not guilty by reason of insanity plea.
  • Sept. 29 – Jury selection is complete.
  • Sept. 30 – Attorneys present opening statements.