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FAMILY SEEKS CLOSURE



Published: Wed, May 28, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Tim Yovich

Murderer took more than life of young mom

The brother says the man who killed his sister is ‘animal’ and wants to watch him die.

HUBBARD — Tom Heiss stands quietly beside his sister’s grave at Union Cemetery, asking why her murderer hasn’t been put to death.

“I want to see my sister rest in peace,” Heiss said. “It’s about time to get this over with.”

Heiss, 40, who lives on Youngstown’s West Side, is the brother of Tami Engstrom, who was murdered Feb. 8, 1991, near the Brookfield Township home of her murderer, Kenneth Biros.

An autopsy showed that she had suffered 91 injuries before she died. She was beaten, sexually mutilated and dismembered, her body parts being found in two Pennsylvania communities — a 180-mile radius — and in the trunk of Biros’ car.

Her ring was found in Biros’ basement.

One of the few ways she could be identified was by a small tattoo of an ice cream cone on her shoulder.

“I couldn’t imagine doing that to an animal,” Heiss said with emotion. “He is an animal.”

Execution of Biros has been postponed because of constant appeals.

Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to set an execution date for Biros, a motion that is being opposed by his attorney.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Sept. 25, 2007, that the “three-drug cocktail” used in executions is not cruel and unusual punishment, making way for Watkins to seek an execution date from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Attys. Timothy Sweeney and John Parker, both of Cleveland, who represent Biros, have filed a memorandum opposing setting a date.

They claim that delaying his execution doesn’t harm the state and would be a rush to judgment.

They also contend that Biros was not convicted of capital aggravated murder, thus is not eligible for the death penalty.

Biros did confess killing the young woman.

Engstrom, 22 at the time, had gone to the Nickelodeon Lounge in Masury to visit her uncle, a regular patron of the tavern. She had been socializing.

Biros, whom she didn’t know, was to drive her home.

She never made it back to her husband, Andrew, and their son, Casey.

Debi Heiss says her sister drank two draft beers and a shot of a weak liqueur but not enough to cause her to pass out. Her blood-alcohol was 0.11, slightly above the 0.08 legal limit. Debi Heiss believes Biros slipped something into her sister’s drink.

Her brother won’t discuss that aspect of the case.

But he has nothing good to say about Biros, who initially said that Engstrom had jumped from his vehicle.

“He’s a liar,” Heiss said, calling attention to shortly after she turned up missing. Biros claimed to be helping police with the investigation. Heiss’ two uncles had driven Biros around to find the area where she jumped from his vehicle, but there was no sign of her while Biros knew where her body parts were located.

Over the years, Heiss has said very little publicly about his sister’s death.

“You can hold something in for so long,” he said.

Biros was convicted and sentenced to death later in 1991 and he has remained on death row because of the multiple appeals.

At Union Cemetery, Engstrom’s headstone is between those of her husband’s grave and that of her father-in-law, Charles Engstrom.

Her husband died of a heart attack, her father-in-law of cancer.

“They both died of broken hearts,” Tom Heiss lamented. “It tears your heart out.” Her husband just couldn’t take the totality of the events of his wife’s death anymore, he said.

“If this crime doesn’t deserve the death sentence, I want to know what does,” Heiss said.

Lethal injection is the manner of execution in Ohio. Heiss pointed out that it’s only a pinch in the arm, compared with the pain his sister suffered.

He believes that an execution shouldn’t be painless because it’s meant to punish.

“I don’t know how many years this has taken off my life,” Heiss said, noting he constantly thinks of his sister. He continues to have nightmares about what she suffered.

Heiss, his sister and mother, Mary Jane Heiss, want to watch the execution.

Time is working against his mother because she is frail from illness and weighs less than 100 pounds.

“He destroyed a lot of lives, not just mine,” Heiss commented.

He said he could better cope with his sister’s death if she had died in an accident or from a disease such as cancer but can’t bring himself to understand this type of death.

It also nags Heiss that Biros is treated “like a king” on death row. If he needs medical attention, he gets it at taxpayers’ expense.

On March 20, 2007, Biros was scheduled for execution in Lucasville, but it was halted because of a last-minute appeal. Heiss, his sister and their mother were at the prison then and plan to return when he is again scheduled to die.

yovich@vindy.com


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