Fourth wife hides as murder suspect awaits retrial

By Denise Dick


A Poland Township native awaiting a third trial for the murder of his third wife returns to court Wednesday after prosecutors asked that his bond be revoked.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors sought the revocation of Robert Girts’ bond last week, a few days after Brookfield Township police conducted a welfare check on Girts’ fourth wife.

The Aug. 5 police report says Brookfield police were contacted by an officer with the Southwest Regional Police in Farrell, Pa., for the check.

The Pennsylvania police officer said the wife’s work supervisor received a call from her, and she abruptly quit her job.

The supervisor told police that the wife, 59, “had called her and told her that she needed to quit her job due to a marital problem with her husband, Robert,” the Brookfield report says.

The supervisor said the wife told her “Robert was stalking her and threatened to kill her if she left him,” it says.

Police went to the South Park Circle home where Girts allowed them to look for his wife, but she wasn’t there. Girts, also 59, told police that he saw her earlier that day to give her her paycheck, and had sent her several text messages since then, but she didn’t respond.

The township police officer contacted Girts’ wife, “who confirmed that she had quit her job as a result of the threats from Robert,” the report says, adding that the woman sounded distraught.

She told police she was hiding from Girts and refused to tell the officer where she was but said she was OK.

No charges were filed.

During an Aug. 9 bond-revocation hearing, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge didn’t revoke Girts’ $100,000 bond but ordered no contact between spouses, court records show.

Girts’ travel also was restricted between Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties for medical and court appointments, the records say.

Girts’ attorney couldn’t be reached Monday.

The bond-revocation hearing continues Wednesday.

Girts, a former undertaker, was convicted in 1993 of aggravated murder in the 1992 death of his third wife, Diane, and was sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors said he gave her a fatal dose of potassium cyanide.

That conviction was reversed by a state appeals court in 1994, and in a second trial, Girts was convicted in 1995 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. But the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals later found prosecutorial misconduct in that second trial and reversed the conviction.

The court in 2007 ordered Girts’ release unless the state court granted him a new trial within 180 days of the decision.

Girts wasn’t retried within six months, and in November 2008, he was released from prison pending retrial.

At that time, he was to live in Poland with a relative. Community Corrections Association in Youngstown was to supervise his probation.

Girts’ first wife died young, and her body was exhumed several years later after his third wife’s death. Pathologists couldn’t determine a cause of death but told family members they didn’t detect poison.

Randy Malleske, chief probation officer at CCA, said supervision by the Youngstown agency was done as a courtesy to Cuyahoga County. He said CCA is in the process of returning responsibility for that supervision to Cuyahoga.

Because the supervision is a courtesy, CCA has very little authority over Girts, Malleske said.

“If any other issues come up, they should be the ones supervising him and taking care of all issues from here on out,” he said.

Since his release in late 2008, Girts had been reporting to CCA as required. At first he reported twice monthly, then the judge reduced it to once per month, the chief probation officer said.

Malleske said Girts never mentioned that he had remarried, but whenever Malleske asked Girts about where he was living, Girts said he was at the same Poland Township address.

After last week’s hearing, Girts told Malleske that he was living at both the Poland and Brookfield homes and traveling back and forth between them.

If Girts would have told him of plans to live in two places, Malleske said he would have told him that he couldn’t without permission from the court.

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