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Ohio man could avoid execution in 1983 murder

Published: Sat, December 21, 2013 @ 3:54 p.m.

Ohio man could avoid execution in 1983 murder


An Ohio man who admitted to fatally slashing the throat of a 19-year-old woman in her home more than 30 years ago could be spared from execution because he didn’t rape her.

The case of David Steffen is set to be heard in Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in March. The court will decide whether the death penalty should be a sentencing option for Steffen, who turned 54 on Saturday at the Trumbull Correctional Institution in northeastern Ohio.

Once that’s decided, Steffen will be given a new sentence in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas in Cincinnati, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Steffen was 22 and on probation for an Indiana bank robbery when he began selling cleaning products door-to-door in Cincinnati.

On Aug. 19, 1982, Steffen went to the home of 19-year-old Karen Range and her parents, who weren’t home at the time. Range allowed Steffen inside so he could demonstrate a cleaning product in the bathroom.

Steffen later told police that he attacked Range after she screamed when his face accidentally brushed across her breast. He admitted to hitting Range, stuffing a cleaning rag into her mouth and then slicing her throat so deeply with a paring knife that he nearly decapitated her.

Steffen told police that he tried to rape Range — whose body was found with her blouse ripped off and semen inside — but that he was physically unable to do so.

A jury convicted him of aggravated murder while committing a rape or attempted rape and aggravated burglary, and he was sentenced to death. It was Hamilton County’s first capital murder case after Ohio re-instituted the death penalty in 1981.

As Steffen appealed his conviction and sentence, prosecutors pushing to have his death sentence carried out got a DNA test conducted on the semen found in Range’s body. It turned out not to be his, proving his claim all along that he hadn’t raped Range.

The discovery eventually led prosecutors to Kenneth Douglas, who later admitted he’d had sex with the body of Range and two other women when he worked at the morgue. Douglas was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to gross abuse of a corpse and was released from prison earlier this year.

Steffen’s attorneys are arguing that because he didn’t rape Range, he should no longer be eligible for execution.

Prosecutors counter that since Steffen tried to rape her, the death sentence still applies, and that his other conviction of aggravated burglary during a murder also could make him eligible for execution.

“He is as guilty as he was 30 years ago,” said prosecutor Steve Tolbert, who helped convict Steffen in 1983. “Nothing in the last 30 years has changed what David Steffen did. He almost beheaded her after she rebuffed his sexual advances.”

Steffen’s attorney, Shawn Welch, said the lightest new sentence his client can get is 40 years to life in prison, with credit for 30 years already served, and that it’s highly unlikely Steffen will ever be freed should he become eligible for parole.

James Shrider, who was engaged to Range when she was killed, said he hopes Steffen is sentenced to death again.

He and Range, who wanted to be a veterinarian, had picked out their wedding rings the day before her murder.

The pair would have been celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary this New Year’s Eve.

Instead, Shrider went to his fiancie’s funeral and Steffen’s trial.

“It would be really nice to have closure but I don’t think I’ll ever have that until he’s put to death,” Shrider said.


1Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

He killed her. Execute him and call it even.

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2NoBS(2841 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

That this animal has lived at taxpayers' expense for over 30 years is wrong!! Yes, someone who did what he did deserves the death penalty, and it should have been carried out 30 years ago!!!

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3Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm really starting to lose all hope for mankind. What a pitiful excuse to avoid the death penalty. "He didn't rape her", but he murdered her in cold blood. smh at the stupidity in society today. God help us all.

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4kk80586(229 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

Technically he raped her if his semen was in her dress. The fact his thingy was too small to actually penetrate should not be a factor. I don't believe she "screamed" because his "face accidentally brushed her breast". I have accidentally come in contact with a lot of breasts and no woman has ever screamed. To commute or drop the death penalty is the same as saying it was the victims own fault she was murdered. He has lived 30 years too long.

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5DACOUNTRYBOY(1267 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

The former governor Strickland would have pardoned David Steffen from death row because he has a short thingy. Strickland had pardoned another killer from death row for having man boobs.

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6papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

as ugly and heinous as rape is obviously brutally taking a life is much worse and deserving of the death penalty. not executing this animal because he didn't rape her is a totally asinine and ridiculous decision.

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7vinglass(295 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

There is a special place in hell for him (and his scumbag lawyer)

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8paulydel(1607 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

He took a life he should lose his.

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