RAVENNA – Public defenders said they hope to prove the murders James E. Trimble allegedly committed were drug-induced and unintentional. However, the prosecution argues the contrary.
Both the prosecution and the defense presented their opening statements to Judge John A. Enlow and the jury Friday, the first day of the trial against Trimble.
Prior to the statements, the twelve jurors and four alternates were bused to the crime scenes in Brimfield Township for jury viewing.
Trimble, 45, is charged with shooting his 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. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
The prosecution presented its case first.
In his opening statement, Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said the prosecution hopes to eventually prove Trimble murdered three victims without provocation.
“He shot her (Bauer) 13 times from an assault rifle in his arsenal,” Vigluicci said.
The prosecution said it will try to show jurors Bauer was protecting her son by standing between him and Trimble.
Vigluicci then explained the prosecution’s expanded view of the case to the jurors.
“It’s a terrible and gruesome story, but it’s what he did,” Vigluicci said.
After Vigluicci spoke for an hour, the defense gave their statement.
Public Defender Dennis Lager said he hopes to convince the jury Trimble’s alleged drug problems caused his actions. The defense claimed Trimble took 1.75 grams of methamphetamines at 4 p.m. Jan. 21, four hours before he killed Renee and Dakota Bauer around 8 p.m. He killed Kent State student Positano about two hours later.
Lager claimed these deaths were unintentional.
“He was involved in a violent physical encounter with Renee before he shot her,” Lager said. “The bullets that struck Dakota were were a result of erratic rounds fired.”
Lager said he hopes to prove the .223 caliber, high-velocity rounds fired by Trimble were not meant for Dakota.
However, the prosecution said it hopes to prove to the jury Trimble also shot at police officers after he left Bauer’s house while in the woods. Vigluicci said Brimfield Township Police responded to calls at 9:02 p.m. The deparment deployed two officers to 880 Sandy Lake Rd. One officer headed for the wooded area near Ranfield Road upon receiving a 911 call from neighbor Steven Reichard, who was threatened and later let go by Trimble.
“Two Tallmadge police officers were shot at near Reichard’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.
However, the defense said it hopes to prove the shooting of Positano, among other things, was caused by poor SWAT tactics and procedures. Lager said these 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 had negotiated Positano’s release and Trimble believed the SWAT team had not negotiated in good faith. Instead it inserted a sniper.
“Trimble was hiding in the apartment, with the gun against Sarah’s head,” Lager said. After seeing the sniper, Lager claimed Trimble began firing his SIG Sauer pistol.
Trimble then dropped the pistol so he could fire his assault rifle at approaching officers with both hands, Lager said. As he dropped the pistol, it discharged, killing Positano.
Lager said the 9 mm pistol has no safety mechanism. He said he hopes to prove that Positano died accidentally, because the autopsy shows a different location of the bullet’s discharge into Positano.
Monday the trial continues with both sides presenting collective evidence to the jury at the Portage County Common Pleas courtroom in Ravenna.
Contact public affairs reporter Josh Echt at [email protected]