Jury selection begins Monday in Trimble trial

Joe Murphy

James E. Trimble

Credit: Jason Hall

The jury selection process begins Monday for the trial of James E. Trimble, 45, of Brimfield.

Trimble faces charges for the murders of his girlfriend Renee Bauer, 42, and Dakota, Bauer’s 7-year-old son. He is also being charged with murder of Kent State student Sarah Positano, 22.

Positano, who was a student assistant trainer on the gymnastics team, died in her home in Brimfield on Jan. 21.

Her death is something gymnastics coach Brice Biggin said he wrestles with almost every day.

“I think unless you’re really involved in the situation, it’s hard to feel what those of us who knew her feel,” Biggin said. “You don’t ever lose those feelings. It’s obviously constantly on our minds.”

Biggin said he hopes the trial will bring some much-needed closure to his life, as well as to the lives of Positano’s family.

Recapping the past

The Brimfield Township Police Department found Positano dead inside her home on Ranfield Road early in the morning on Jan. 22. Trimble was found by the police hiding in a closet following the murders. Trimble allegedly shot and killed Bauer and her son before holding Positano hostage.

Detective Charles Adkins of the Brimfield Police told the Daily Kent Stater in late January that a passer-by spotted Trimble running in army fatigues from Sandy Lake Drive to Ranfield Road with an assault rifle. Trimble then fired several shots at police and hid in Positano’s duplex.

Trimble was arraigned on three counts of aggravated murder on Feb. 7. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Trimble also pleaded not guilty on Jan. 31 to 12 counts of attempted murder.

Less than a week before Trimble pleaded not guilty, Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci requested that a gag order be issued for the case to prevent parties involved in the trial from disclosing any information when outside of the courtroom. One day after the gag order was put into effect, Dennis Lager, Trimble’s attorney and Portage County public defender, filed a motion against Vigluicci for violating the gag order. Vigluicci was accused after he explained the gag order to a Record-Courier reporter.

The motion was eventually dismissed by Portage County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Enlow on Feb. 17.

Despite the gag order issued to protect secrecy, Trimble was the subject of nearly 200 broadcast news stories in less than a three-month span. As a result, Lager argued that prospective jurors could not come into the case without preconceived notions. Therefore, Lager motioned for the trial to be moved out of Portage County. The motion was later dismissed by Enlow.

While Enlow did not move the location of the trial, he did move the trial date. The Sept. 19 jury selection is more than two months later than the originally scheduled trial date of July 12.

Lager came up on the short end again when Enlow turned down his request for Positano’s family to not be allowed in the courtroom during the playing of a 911 tape recording Positano’s death. Lager told the courtroom that the tape would be of Positano being shot and dying.

While Enlow gave the Positano family permission to be in the courtroom, it is not known yet how much of the trial the Positanos, who live in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, will attend. The Positano family is not under a gag order, but have requested the press to leave them alone.

Kent State Athletic Director Laing Kennedy said he tries to talk with Susan Positano, Sarah’s mother, about once a month. Kennedy said the last time he talked with Susan, in June, she was still trying to understand why her daughter died.

“She’s a strong woman,” Kennedy said. “She and her whole family are continuing to deal with the death of a beautiful daughter whose life shouldn’t have ended this way. This is tough to deal with. They are trying to get back to some kind of normal life.”

Jury selection for the trial begins 9 a.m. Monday at the Portage County Court of Common Pleas. Enlow and the rest of the court will narrow 250 possible jurors down to 16. Enlow will have 12 trial jurors and four alternates. The final 16 should be decided by the end of Tuesday.

Contact public affairs reporter Joe Murphy at [email protected]