Sentence of death affirmed by high court

By Marc Kovac

The defendant killed three people, including a 7-year-old boy and his mother.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the death sentence of a man who shot and killed three people in Portage County in 2005 in what the justices called a “horrific crime.”

The state’s high court rejected all 15 allegations of legal or procedural errors made by James Trimble, who sought to have his sentence reduced to life in prison.

“We find nothing in the nature and circumstances of the offense to be mitigating,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote in the court’s decision. He added later, “In contrast, we find that as to each of these counts, Trimble’s mitigating evidence has little significance. Therefore, we find that the death sentence in this case is appropriate.”

Trimble was convicted of the aggravated murders of his girlfriend and her 7-year-old son (Renee Bauer and Dakota Bauer) and, in a separate home, Kent State University student Sarah Positano. He held the latter hostage and shot her during a standoff with police.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci has called it “probably the most horrible crime committed in the history of my county.”

Trimble, now 48, has been on death row since November 2005. He admitted killing all three victims but said Positano’s death was accidental and evidence did not prove he committed the crimes with prior calculation and design.

In his appeal, he argued for the convictions to be overturned or the sentence reduced to life in prison, based on 15 legal and procedural errors and ineffective legal counsel.

Among other errors, Trimble argued that the trial judge should have changed the venue of the proceedings because of prejudicial pretrial publicity. And he said 19 firearms he owned were improperly displayed for the jury.

On the latter, Justice Moyer wrote, “While it is highly questionable whether the trial court should have allowed this evidence to be displayed before the jury in court or during deliberations, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in doing so. Even assuming that these exhibits should not have been displayed, any error was harmless. As previously discussed, overwhelming evidence was presented at trial that established Trimble’s guilt of the three murders. Moreover, during the penalty phase, the trial court excluded the firearms found in the basement.”

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