Thursday, November 10, 2011
Trial to begin in '95 rape, murder of Akron girl
July 17, 2006
Death row inmate Donald Craig was to go on trial this morning for abducting and murdering a teenage girl.
At the same time, his lawyers will be defending him against claims of two other sexual assaults against teens, all in an effort to avoid a second death sentence.
Jury selection is expected to last the entire week in Summit County Common Pleas Court. Opening statements from attorneys and testimony are scheduled to begin in one week.
Craig, 46, is on trial for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of 13-year-old Malissa Thomas of Akron. The case had gone unsolved until, according to police and prosecutors, DNA samples connected Craig to the crime scene.
Craig has pleaded not guilty.
He also maintains his innocence in the rape and murder of 12-year-old Roseanna Davenport, for which he was convicted and sentenced to death two years ago. His conviction and death sentence are under appeal.
This month, prosecutors won a major victory when Judge James Murphy ruled that the state could use evidence of two other crimes they say Craig committed.
Not only will jurors hear evidence of his involvement in Malissa's death, they will hear of Craig's alleged involvement in the 1996 kidnapping, rape and murder of Roseanna. DNA was the key piece of evidence connecting Craig to the rape and murder.
Murphy's ruling also allows jurors to hear the testimony of an Akron woman who testified in the Davenport case that she was abducted and raped by Craig in 1991, when she was 17. Craig was never charged with that crime.
All three cases are similar. The bodies of Roseanna and Malissa were each found strangled in vacant houses. They were also bound and sexually assaulted.
Roseanna's remains were found in a house on South Maple Street, a few doors from Craig's home. Malissa's body was found in an East Avenue house, near Craig's home.
The Akron woman, who knew Craig through relatives, has testified that she also was taken to a vacant house, bound and raped. She said Craig allowed her to dress before he drove her home. Craig was investigated in that case, but a grand jury declined to indict him.