PDT Staff Writer
A jury was seated in Tuesday morning, and after a break for lunch, both sides in the murder trial of David Gerald, 37, of 1021 Center St. in Wheelersburg gave opening arguments.
Gerald is the second of three people charged with the murder of Felipe Lopez, 24, of Friendship, whose badly burned body was found in a burned-out truck in March of this year.
Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Pat Apel opened the afternoon session by explaining the 10 counts lodged against Gerald. Those counts include two counts of aggravated murder; murder; aggravated arson; arson; three counts of tampering with evidence; kidnapping and conspiracy to aggravated murder.
Apel described how he theorized that Gerald, whom he referred to as “the principal offender,” struck Lopez in the head with a hatchet several times, and he said Lopez was also stabbed in his stomach, cutting the liver and hitting an artery. He also told the jury Lopez was still alive when he was set on fire.
Gerald’s attorney Gene Meadows cautioned the jury that - “You’ve got to do more. You’ve got to listen to the evidence.”
He then mentioned that the knife, allegedly used in the murder, had disappeared after being taken as evidence. Late in the afternoon, a spokesman at the Scioto County Sheriff’s office said there is an ongoing investigation as to how the knife was lost.
“If they can’t hold on to the evidence,” Meadows said. “What else did they miss?”
Meadows told the jury it was their job to judge the credibility of the witnesses.
After opening statements, Lopez’s widow Kelly Lopez was called as the first witness by the prosecution. She, as in the first trial of Raymond Linkous, established how the couple had met, and their relationship with the three charged in her husband’s murder. She said after her husband and the suspects left her house for Otway, she never saw her husband again until she identified him through photos of his jewelry from the coroner’s report.
On Sept. 13, a jury found Raymond Linkous, 35, of Wheelersburg, guilty on all 10 counts in the same case, and sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole. The first three charges merged into one, resulting in sentencing to life without the possibility of parole. In addition to the life sentence, Linkous received an additional 26 years on the other charges to be served consecutively. A third person, Thomas Henry Steinhauer, 47 of Portsmouth faces the same charges. He is set for trial in November.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org