Lead detective testifies in Hundley capital murder case
By Joe Gorman
In his time as a Youngstown police detective, Detective Sgt. Ron Rodway has investigated more than 200 homicides.
Yet he testified Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that the Nov. 6, 2015, beating death of Erika Huff, 41, in her Cleveland Street home was different for two reasons.
The first: Her mother, Denise Johnson, was also attacked by the man on trial for Huff’s death and survived.
The second: Lance Hundley, 48, of Warren, was still at the crime scene when police arrived.
Hundley could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder of Huff, who was in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis. Hundley also faces charges of attempted murder in Johnson’s beating and aggravated arson after being accused of trying to burn Huff’s body and the house.
Testimony began Monday before Judge Maureen Sweeney and is expected to continue today.
Besides Rodway, the lead detective on the case, other prosecution witnesses included members of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation who tested evidence collected by police at the scene.
When police arrived at the home, they found a bedroom where Johnson was on fire, and they pulled her out. Huff’s body was in the room, and Hundley was in the home. He was pulled out by police and treated for smoke inhalation at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital before being questioned by Rodway and arrested.
Hundley was identified as a suspect right away and remained that way, Rodway said, one of the main reasons being because Johnson was able to identify Hundley as the person who attacked her.
Hundley gave an alibi, saying he was drinking at a local bar, but he did not know what times he was there or left, Rodway said. Rodway said he checked his alibi and an employee of the bar could not remember him being there.
Rodway said there was a lot of physical evidence, but Johnson’s statements to police both after the crime and three days later when she was interviewed by Rodway in the hospital are the strength of the case. Rodway said it is rare to have a surviving victim at a homicide scene to speak with.
“In this case, the most important thing in my estimation was Denise Johnson,” Rodway said.