Denny Obermiller, who killed his grandparents and raped his grandmother in August, is ready to face the death penalty and has done all he can to clear the way for prosecutors to make a case for his execution.
But the three-judge panel that found him guilty last month still isn’t ready to hand down the ultimate punishment — and Obermiller is losing his patience.
“I don’t like none of you,” Obermiller barked at Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judges Shirley Strickland Saffold, Timothy McGinty and John Sutula Wednesday as the sentencing phase of his trial began. “I think you’re all idiots. I just said I’m not going to answer any more of your questions. Why are you still asking?”
This phase of death penalty trials is usually devoted to defendants explaining all the reasons they should not be executed. Obermiller has angrily rejected any attempts by his lawyers to save him.
Obermiller’s attorney, James McDonnell set a hand on his client’s shoulder, advising him to quiet down, before the judges called a short recess. But Obermiller continued to boycott the judges’ questions, answering only through his attorneys.
And he stared defiantly ahead as the judges took turns rattling off circumstances of Obermiller’s life and childhood that his attorneys could draw upon to show his life is worth preserving — if Obermiller allowed them to.
Obermiller’s father went to prison when he was a young boy, Sutula recalled from previous testimony.
His mother was shot in the head and killed while trying to defuse a domestic dispute between friends.
Obermiller passed through the custody of several relatives. He was emotionally abused and spent the majority of his formative years and young adulthood incarcerated for violent crimes.
“I have made my decision,” Obermiller responded. “And I’m comfortable with it.”
The judges, who now are deliberating on Obermiller’s sentence, have acted in an abundance of caution in dealing with the case, making it clear at each station that despite Obermiller’s wish to expedite the trial, denying him his rights could lead to an appeal.
Saffold said during the hearing Wednesday that Obermiller told psychiatrists during an evaluation that he’d rather be executed than languish in prison for a lifetime.
Obermiller pleaded guilty to 17 counts, including multiple charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated theft, burglary, attempted aggravated arson and tampering with evidence.
Obermiller’s grandparents, Candace Schneider, 61 and Donald Schneider, 60, had contacted police on Aug. 10 after they returned home from an out-of-town trip and noticed coins had been taken from their home, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The couple suspected Obermiller, who had spent more than nine years in prison for assault and kidnapping and had been living with them since his release.
The Schneiders were found dead several days later. Candace Schneider, 61, was discovered on the floor, handcuffed and naked from the waist down. Her face covered with a sheet, she had been strangled with an electrical cord, and two used condoms lay near her body.
Donald Schneider, 60, was found face down on a bed upstairs, also handcuffed and strangled with a bed sheet.
Obermiller confessed to the killings after police arrested him in Licking County days later, prosecutors said.
The judges will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. today to continue deliberating on a sentence. Obermiller could be sentenced to death or to life in prison with or without parole eligibility.