Hundley blames victim’s family for murder


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The man accused of beating, strangling and burning the body of a Cleveland Street woman and beating her mother testified Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court the victim’s family was in on the crime.

Lance Hundley, 48, of Warren, who could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder in the Nov. 5, 2016, death of Erika Huff in her Cleveland Street home, told jurors before Judge Maureen Sweeney under direct examination he was sleeping on the couch of the home, where he was staying with Huff, when he was awakened and “choked out.”

Huff was in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis.

When he came to, he saw a man leave Huff’s bedroom with a gas can, Hundley testified. Hundley, crying on the witness stand, said he went into Huff’s room and saw her lying on the floor. He said he knelt next to her, felt for a pulse and there was none.

Hundley said he heard the screen door open, so he grabbed a knife and a hammer from the kitchen.

“I didn’t know who was coming through the door, and I was going to knock their head off,” Hundley testifed.

The person was Huff’s mother, Denise Johnson, Hundley said, who was holding a gas can and told him to calm down.

“She told me we could come up with something to tell the police,” Hundley testified.

Jurors began hearing testimony in the case this week and will be back Monday to hear closing arguments.

Later, Hundley said he saw the man who left Huff’s room in a car with Huff’s stepfather, who was removed from the courtroom by a deputy during Hundley’s testimony. Hundley started beating Johnson after she pushed him, Hundley testified.

Police responded to the home early that morning because of a medical alarm and pulled Johnson out of a burning bedroom where Huff’s body was.

Johnson testified earlier she also received the alarm and went to let paramedics in when she was attacked by Hundley, who told her she was going to die and admitted killing Huff because she made advances toward him despite having a child with Hundley’s brother.

Under a testy cross-examination from Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa, Hundley said he did not notice when he checked Huff’s pulse that her feet were on fire and that she had a cord wrapped around her neck that was used to strangle her. Hundley claimed he was scared and was looking for a phone to call for help.

“Did you notice her feet were on fire?” Cantalamessa asked.

“No,” Hundley responded.

Hundley denied ever handling a gas can that evening and also denied answering the door before police came when an ambulance was dispatched to the home for the alarm, only to leave when Hundley answered the door and told the paramedics it was a false alarm, one of the paramedics testified earlier.

Hundley also admitted to never telling police the version of events he testified to Friday.

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