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by ED MEYER Friday, Aug. 01, 2008 at 2:01 PM

SUMMIT COUNTY DEPUTIES GOE BERSERK (MURDER) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deputy's trial to begin in inmate's jail death: Prosecutors plan to use 90 photos from autopsy depicting injuries
Ed Meyer
Jul 27, 2008 (The Akron Beacon Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

In September 2006, barely a month after the death of Summit County Jail inmate Mark D. McCullaugh Jr., his father talked about the hardships of the funeral.

McCullaugh, 28, was so badly beaten in the face and other areas of the head, his father said, the casket had to be closed.

Now, nearly two years later, court records show that prosecutors plan to use 90 autopsy photographs -- depicting external and internal views of numerous injuries to the upper and lower body -- when they take the first of five sheriff's deputies to trial for McCullaugh's death.

Among those injuries, according to court records filed in May, were seven fractured ribs incurred during a violent struggle with the deputies in McCullaugh's cell in the jail's mental-health unit on Aug. 20, 2006.

The trial of deputy Stephen Krendick, 35, is set to begin Monday morning in Summit County Common Pleas Court before visiting Judge Herman F. Inderlied Jr. of Geauga County.

Krendick, who waived his right to a jury trial, faces the most serious charge in the deadly incident -- one count of murder. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for 15 years to life.

He has pleaded not guilty in various court proceedings since his Sept. 7 indictment and is free on bond. Last month, Krendick

had his pay reinstated by Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander.

The other deputies who were indicted -- Brett Hadley, Brian Polinger, Dominic Martucci and Mark Mayer -- are scheduled to go to trial before Inderlied later this year.

Defense experts

In an apparent attempt to counter the autopsy evidence in the government's case, Krendick's lawyers, Robert C. Baker of Akron and James M. Kersey of Cleveland, said in their trial brief that six medical experts will testify that the deputies were not at fault in McCullaugh's death.

"The events which led to Mr. McCullaugh's death were set in motion, not by Stephen Krendick and any of the other deputies, but by Mark McCullaugh," the defense records say.

McCullaugh, 6-foot-2 and 306 pounds, according to autopsy evidence, died from sudden heart failure brought on by excited delirium from a psychotic condition for which he was no longer being treated, the defense contends.

One of the defense experts, renowned forensic pathologist Werner U. Spitz, will testify that McCullaugh "died of a haywire heartbeat triggered by stress and agitation brought on by his psychotic condition, and further, that his heart could not stand the workload," the records say.

Spitz, former chief medical examiner of Wayne and Macomb counties in Michigan and a professor of pathology at Wayne State University in Detroit, testified in the O.J. Simpson wrongful death trial and at congressional investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Prosecutors' exhibits

In all, prosecutors documented 215 exhibits of potential evidence against Krendick in their 33-page trial brief.

Those exhibits will show there was a violent struggle with the deputies in McCullaugh's cell, and that during the struggle, the prosecution brief alleges, McCullaugh was beaten, stomped, kicked, placed in handcuffs and leg shackles in a "hog-tying" position and then shot by Krendick with a Taser stun gun.

"Even after participating in the forceful restraint and hog-tying of McCullaugh, and after leaving the cell for between . . . 25 and 30 minutes, Krendick continued his assault on McCullaugh," the trial brief says.

"Returning to the cell and finding McCullaugh subdued," the brief says, "Krendick expressed a desire to apply [pepper spray] to the prisoner."

Krendick then sprayed an entire 16-ounce can of pepper spray "across McCullaugh's buttocks, back and back of his head," the trial brief says.

After McCullaugh was shackled -- but before being pepper-sprayed -- those records also indicate that he was injected by a jail nurse with what was described as a "two-drug cocktail" in a further effort to calm him down.

McCullaugh was pronounced dead at 7:46 that night at Akron General Medical Center.

Report challenged

Initially, Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa J. Kohler ruled the death a homicide.

That ruling was based on the autopsy findings of her chief assistant, forensic pathologist George Sterbenz, who determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation from multiple forms of restraint and blunt-force blows, including an unspecified anal injury.

But in a May 2 Summit County civil court ruling, visiting Judge Ted Schneiderman ordered Kohler to change the manner of death in McCullaugh's autopsy report from "homicide" to "undetermined."

Schneiderman's order followed a four-day trial in which Kohler's report was challenged by lawyers from Taser International Inc. and the city of Akron.

There was "simply no medical, scientific or electrical evidence to support the conclusion that the Taser . . . . . . had anything to do" with McCullaugh's death or with two other unrelated deaths involving confrontations with area police, Schneiderman said in his order.

Krendick's lawyers subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the charges against all of the deputies, contending that Schneiderman's ruling tainted the original evidence on which the grand jury indictments were based.

But Inderlied denied that motion, saying the indictments were "not evidence" and "nothing more than a charging document."

Other testimony

University of Akron law professor J. Dean Carro, president of the Akron Bar Association, said the prosecution's case for proving murder without an official finding of homicide is not necessarily more difficult.

"You can prove causation with other information," Carro said. "You don't have to rely solely on the autopsy report."

In what might be the most damaging evidence against Krendick, case records show, the prosecution will offer testimony from other deputies who told investigators they saw Krendick "standing on the bunk stomping on McCullaugh's head with his boot."

One of those deputies, Keith Murray, "said that Krendick stomped on McCullaugh's head five or six times."

Nevertheless, prosecutors said in their trial brief that, if they are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Krendick is guilty of murder, lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault warrant consideration by the judge.

"What the state is saying there is: 'We don't know what the evidence is absolutely going to turn out to be,' " Carro said. "The facts drive whether you get the lesser [charges] included."

Assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutors John R. Kosko and Brian M. McDonough, who were appointed as special prosecutors, will handle the government's case.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh asked Cuyahoga County to take the case last year to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or

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