Jury deliberates in Kirkland trial

Anthony Kirkland with attorney Norm Aubin
Anthony Kirkland with attorney Norm Aubin

CINCINNATI (AP) - A jury began deliberations Friday in the trial of an Ohio registered sex offender whose own lawyers say he killed two teenage girls and burned their bodies.

Anthony Kirkland, 41, who also pleaded guilty to killing two women before his trial began, is charged with aggravated murder, attempted rape and other counts in the deaths of Casonya Crawford, 14, and Esme Kenney, 13, both of Cincinnati.

Defense lawyers say Kirkland killed the teenagers, and they expect the jury to find him guilty. The defense presented no evidence during the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Will Welsh said he wouldn't go over all the evidence concerning Kenney.

"It is overwhelming," he said, adding that he knows the jury would find Kirkland guilty of both killings.

But Welsh urged jurors to set their emotions aside and make a decision based on the evidence. In Crawford's case, the state did not prove that Kirkland tried to rape her or commit aggravated robbery, he said.

Kirkland admitted he killed Crawford, but said he did not take her cell phone or attempt to sexually assault her, Welsh said. Welsh also reminded jurors that some of the four cases would have remained unsolved if Kirkland had not confessed to police and that he did give the families "the knowledge they needed to know." Prosecutors said the evidence and the defendant's own words in recorded police interviews proves his guilt.

Jurors heard hours of those statements this week. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Kirkland had worried that he would be seen as a monster.

"I think that over the past two weeks, the state has conclusively proved that that is a fact," Deters said. Deters told jurors Kirkland was "devoid of human decency" and should die.

Kirkland's statements that he burned the bodies of the two girls and two women he has pleaded guilty to murdering as some sort of "purification" ritual was nonsense, the prosecutor said. What he was doing was as old as crime itself, the prosecutor said.

"He was trying to destroy evidence," said Deters.

Kirkland was to be tried in all four deaths. But before the trial began, he pleaded guilty to one count each of murder and gross abuse of a corpse in the slayings of Kimya Rolison, 25, and Mary Jo Newton, 45, both of Cincinnati.

He could receive 32 years in prison to two life sentences in those killings.

Crawford and the two women were killed in 2006, but Kirkland was not charged in those deaths until 2009 when he was arrested in Kenney's death. Kenney had left her home to go jogging at a nearby reservoir on March 7, 2009. Police located her partially burned body in a wooded area near the reservoir on March 8 after finding Kirkland nearby.

Newton and the two teenagers were strangled. Rolison was stabbed to death.

Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier told jurors that Kirkland had a sexual motivation in all the crimes and "views all women as sex objects."

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