Dispatcher, negotiators relive phone conversations in court

Kimberly Dick

RAVENNA – Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci will call four final witnesses to testify and present evidence today in the Portage County Common Pleas Court.

Judge John Enlow said he would like to finish the state’s case today.

On Friday, when the court last convened, State Highway Patrol dispatcher Heather Turner took the stand again and listened to the recorded conversation that she received on Jan. 21 from Sarah Positano after James E. Trimble entered Positano’s Ranfield Road apartment.

On Thursday, this 911 call was played over the court’s audio system and was found inaudible at times.

On Friday, the defense played the call from a laptop and external computer speakers for clearer sound.

Turner’s eyes swelled with tears as she heard Positano cry and plead for the police to leave because this was 45-year-old Trimble’s only request. Trimble is charged with the death of 22-year-old Kent State student Positano and also faces aggravated murder charges for the deaths of his 42-year-old girlfriend Renee Bauer and her 7-year-old son, Dakota.

“He says he sees them standing outside – All he wants is the police to leave,” Positano is heard saying during the last hour of her life.

Turner grabbed for a tissue while Positano’s voice repeated that she didn’t want to die and that there was a gun to her head. Turner began to shake as Positano said desperately that she didn’t do anything wrong and had never seen the man with the gun before.

After that call, Positano was connected to Ohio Highway Patrol hostage negotiator Richard Baron. He promised Positano that she would be OK.

Baron said his conversation with Positano ended with a scream and gasps. He said it sounded as if she was being choked.

“I knew the suspect had a gun to her head and he was behind her,” Baron said. “I did not hear a gunshot or an actual phrase. We did not know that Sarah was being injured. I heard distress, but I thought it was from the situation he had her in.”

Baron said he didn’t hear what had actually happened to Positano until the following Tuesday. He said he had clearly heard the loud sound, but the “I’ve been shot” was the scream.

While Positano was seeking help from Turner and Baron, Michael Korach, a hostage negotiator with the Metro SWAT team, was talking to Trimble on his cell phone. This call was not recorded.

Korach testified that a male, who later identified himself as “Camo Jim” told him that he had “already killed two people that had f—ed with him,” and later identified the two people he killed as his girlfriend and her son.

“He indicated that he didn’t want to kill any innocents,” Korach said.

Korach started to cry as he continued with his testimony. He said the suspect said, “Just give me a couple of hours to get my sh– together, and I’ll let her go. I asked him to repeat that to Sarah, to let her know there’d be an end to this and she’d walk away, and he did that.”

Then the call was lost. The next sound he heard were shots being fired over the radio.

Judge John Enlow used a two-hour morning break to review the 911 call in his chambers with transcripts prepared by the defense and prosecution. He decided that the CD is the best evidence because the parties could not agree on the inconsistencies.

Portage County Public Defender Dennis Lager introduced a transcript of this call Thursday, which caused the proceedings to end early.

Vigluicci said the prosecution reviewed transcripts of the 911 call and found errors, omissions and inaccuracies.

The problem encountered when just playing the tape is that several people talk at the same time. The transcript is important because it will allow the jurors to read and understand the other voices, Lager said.

One discrepancy is what Lager calls an “unidentified male voice,” which Vigluicci identifies as Mike Dexter of the State Highway Patrol.

The trial is scheduled to continue through this week.

Contact public affairs reporter Kimberly Dick at [email protected].