LISBON MURDER PLOT Throw out teacher's remarks, lawyers urge
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Attorneys defending a teacher accused in a murder plot want remarks he made to investigators to be discarded as evidence because they say his mind was clouded by drugs and alcohol when he made them.
Prosecutors counter that Thomas Kelm, 35, of Leetonia, was rational and alert when he made the statements and they should be admitted when the case goes to trial Aug. 20.
Judge David Tobin of Columbiana County Common Pleas Court is considering the arguments made during a hearing Friday and is expected to rule in the next few days.
At issue are statements Kelm made to David Wilson, 19, of Hanoverton, on May 24, while Wilson was serving as an informant for the FBI. Wilson is charged as a conspirator in the murder plot.
Also being challenged by Kelm's attorneys are statements he made to investigators after he was arrested May 25.
Incriminating remarks: During the hearing, the contents of Kelm's statements on those two days weren't fully described. But remarks made at the hearing by witnesses indicate that they incriminate Kelm in a plot that involved a bomb and payment for committing the murders.
Kelm, a teacher of agriculture and career development at the Columbiana County Career Center in Lisbon, is charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
Kelm is accused of entering a scheme to kill April Frantz, 21; Catelynn Frantz, the 2-year-old daughter authorities say he fathered with April; and April's grandparents, Joe and Cora Frantz. The Frantzes share a home in Lisbon.
Prosecutors have offered no motive.
Kelm, who is in the county jail, testified at the hearing that he drank brandy and more than a case of beer, and took several prescription painkillers before talking with Wilson on May 24.
Kelm's attorneys, Lawrence Stacey II and Jim Hartford, both of Columbiana County, argued that his drug-and-alcohol-induced impairment make any comments he might have made to Wilson ineligible as evidence.
Kelm also said he drank about eight beers and took several painkillers in the hours before he was arrested May 25, again impairing him.
Doctor testifies: Dr. Vincent Paolone of Boardman, appearing for the defense, said the alcohol and drugs in Kelm's system compromised his ability to reason and make sound judgments.
Stacey and Hartford argued that Kelm wasn't in any condition to waive his constitutional rights after being arrested. Those include the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer there while being questioned by investigators. Kelm exercised neither of those rights.
No signs: But assistant county Prosecutor John Gamble countered with witnesses who testified that Kelm exhibited no signs of being intoxicated or influenced by drugs.
"Tom knew exactly what was going on," Sheriff Dave Smith said of Kelm's demeanor during and after his arrest.
The case was jointly investigated by the FBI and sheriff's office.