Principal's killer comes up for parole

The victim was beaten to death at Mosquito Lake.
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office is fighting the parole of a man serving prison time for the beating death of a Howland school principal.
"This is one of those guys that will come out of prison with the same violent tendencies he went in with," Miriam Fife, advocate at the prosecutor's victim/witness program, said Thursday of John W. Smith.
Smith, 33, formerly of Cortland, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison by Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for the June 1991 killing of Larry Graber.
Graber, 54, was the principal at Howland Springs Primary School when he was beaten to death at a Mosquito Lake park.
Smith told police that he met Graber in a Warren gay bar and that Graber made sexual advances toward him in a wooded area near the lake.
Smith will appear either Oct. 17 or 18 before the Ohio Adult Parole Authority at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, where he is serving his prison term.
"He has a propensity for violence," Fife said of Smith. She termed the death both a "hate crime" and "sex crime."
Prosecutor's opposition
County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins sent an Aug. 29 letter to the parole board continuing his opposition to Smith's release. He referred to a September 2001 letter also opposing parole.
In the earlier correspondence, Watkins explained that after Smith beat Graber with a tree branch, he stomped on him.
Graber was discovered 14 hours later, barely alive. He died in the hospital two hours later.
"Mr. Graber was beaten so severely and disfigured so horribly his family members had trouble identifying him," Watkins wrote.
Fife said that Graber's two brothers will also give statements to the parole board opposing Smith's release.

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