Friday, October 08, 1999

Jury to decide accused killer's fate

Man charged in stabbing death of 83-year-old

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The fate of Kevin W. Walls, who is accused of stabbing an 83-year-old woman to death 14 years ago, will be placed in hands of a Butler County Common Pleas Court jury today.

        Mr. Walls' attorneys called only three witnesses to the stand Thursday before resting their case. Mr. Walls, who was 15 years old when Ann Zwiefelhoefer was killed, did not testify.

        After the prosecution and the defense present closing arguments this morning, the jury will begin deliberating.

        Mr. Walls, 30, of Hamilton, is charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.

        If convicted, he will not face the death penalty because of his age when the crime was committed.

        Mr. Walls was charged with the crimes last year after experts matched his fingerprints with 13 prints lifted from Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer's house on March 8, the day after she was killed.

        The prosecution says Mr. Walls broke into her house and killed her while robbing her.

        Mr. Walls' attorneys con tend that he was in Garfield Junior High School when Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer was killed. They have said that evidence points to another Hamilton man who had been a prime suspect in this killing but whose fingerprints were not found at the crime scene.

        The defense attorneys have said that Mr. Walls left his fingerprints in Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer's house when he helped clean it as part of a Rent-A-Kid program.

        But her relatives have testified that she never used such a program and was very cautious about letting strangers into her house.

        A former Garfield teacher testified this week that Mr. Walls was in an occupational work adjustment program at school. But he said the students worked for pay in Hamilton schools, not people's homes.

        Defense witness Claudine Simpson testified Thursday that a police composite sketch of a man seen on Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer's porch by a neighbor at 1:30 p.m. on the day she was killed looked like the Hamilton man who had been a prime suspect.

        She said the man is a relative by marriage.

        Mr. Walls' sister, Tanya Sue Holland, 26, testified that he worked for the Rent-A-Kid program in people's houses in Hamilton and Fairfield.

        She said she did not know whether he had worked for Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer.

        Ms. Holland said she did not know Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer. But in cross-examination, assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Hyde reminded her of an affidavit she had signed in which she said she remembered when Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer was killed.

        Ms. Holland, who was 11 at the time of the slaying, lived in the same neighborhood as Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer.

        A niece discovered the body in a pool of blood on the living room floor in her house on Maple Avenue in Hamilton. Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer had been stabbed nine times.

        A new state computer that stores 2.1 million fingerprints and began operating in June of last year enabled authorities to match Mr. Walls' prints with those lifted from the crime scene.

        The fingerprints are the prosecution's most important piece of evidence.

        No one witnessed the slaying of Mrs. Zwiefelhoefer, whom relatives have described as a vigorous woman despite her age.

        The wounds on her hands and arms indicate she tried to fight off her attacker, according to trial testimony.


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