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Decision near on penalty for Biros



Published: Fri, January 5, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.



The convicted killer's mother begged the board to spare his life.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Shortly after he takes office next week, Gov.-elect Ted Strickland will begin to decide whether convicted killer Kenneth Biros of Trumbull County will live or die.

The Ohio Parole Board is expected on Wednesday to give Strickland, a Democrat who assumes office Monday, its recommendation on clemency for Biros, convicted in the 1991 dismemberment killing of Tami Engstrom of Hubbard. She was 22 at the time.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said Thursday that the incoming governor "will have a legal team in place to investigate this matter and review the case."

Emotional hearing

The seven-member parole board held a sometimes emotional hearing Thursday on whether to recommend that Biros be spared the death penalty.

Biros is scheduled to die by lethal injection Jan. 23 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

Attorneys and family members of the 48-year-old Biros, who is being held on death row at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, pleaded for Biros' life -- and said he was more than just a condemned man. They said Biros had a loving family and was not a problem prison inmate.

"We are here asking for mercy," Biros attorney John Parker said.

Biros' mother, JoAnn Biros, also sought mercy for her son: "I'm his mother," she said. "I'm begging you to spare his life."

Attorneys for Kenneth Biros said they were requesting that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole.

But Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said Biros didn't deserve mercy: "This is the worst of the worst," Watkins said.

Watkins asked Engstrom's family and supporters to leave the room while he showed the parole board photographs -- some graphic -- and other evidence connected to the killing.

Case background

According to investigators, Engstrom drove to the Nickelodeon Lounge in Masury on Feb. 7, 1991, to visit her uncle, who was a regular patron of the tavern. Engstrom reportedly had several drinks and passed out, according to investigators.

When she awoke, Biros volunteered to take her home but she apparently never made it there, according to state records. Her whereabouts remained undiscovered until a couple of days later.

Investigators had questioned Biros and informed him that he was reported to be the last person to see Engstrom alive. Biros, according to state documents, then confessed killing Engstrom and mutilating and dismembering her body.

Records say parts of Engstrom's body were found scattered in two Pennsylvania counties and in the trunk of Biros' car. Engstrom's ring was found hidden in the ceiling of Biros' home.

An autopsy disclosed that Engstrom had suffered 91 injuries before death that indicate a severe beating and sexual mutilation, state records say.

Biros was convicted in October 1991 of multiple charges including aggravated murder and sentenced to death. Biros' attorneys told the parole board they believed Biros was not properly charged and convicted of a capital crime.

Watkins responded: "There were never objections by the defense counsel."

Injunction granted

U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost granted an injunction recently that stayed Biros' execution pending a further order from the court. In his ruling, Judge Frost said that Biros' attorneys presented evidence from Florida and California regarding problems with recent lethal injections there that have placed executions on hold.

Biros joined a civil-rights lawsuit late this year that alleges that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. State attorneys say the state has appealed the stay to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it remains pending.




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