Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Tristate killer tells high court he was insane

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Raymond Tibbetts told a Hamilton County jury he suffered a drug-induced blackout when his wife and an infirm housemate were brutally killed.

        On Tuesday, Mr. Tibbetts asked the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence for the 1997 killings. Instead of using his addiction as the basis for his defense, he argued his trial attorneys should have pushed a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

        “We didn't have that defense, but we should have,” said one of Mr. Tibbetts' new attorneys, A. Norman Aubin.

        Police found a grisly scene at the Over-the-Rhine home that Mr. Tibbetts shared with his new wife, Judith Sue Crawford, and landlord Fred Hicks. Ms. Crawford cared for Mr. Hicks, a retired electrician who had emphysema.

        Mr. Hicks had been stabbed 12 times. Four knives were stuck in his body, and others with bent blades were found on the floor.

        Upstairs, Ms. Crawford had been struck several times in the head with a baseball bat. She had been stabbed 21 times and covered with a sheet. Her wedding ring was found underneath her body.

        A store security camera recorded Mr. Hicks' car leaving the house the day of the murders. Two days later, Covington police found Mr. Tibbetts in the car.

        Mr. Aubin said the ghastly nature of the killings, Mr. Tibbetts' blackout and time Mr. Tibbetts spent in a Kentucky psychiatric ward could have built a strong insanity defense.

        He said testimony that Mr. Tibbetts was an addict only hurt his case.

        “Right from the gate you are saying my client killed two people, and he is a crack addict and a drug abuser,” Mr. Aubin said.

        Philip Cummings, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the justices Mr. Tibbetts might have killed his wife in an unthinking rage.

        But he said Mr. Tibbetts deliberately killed Mr. Hicks to eliminate a witness.

        Mr. Cummings also pointed to a phone call Mr. Tibbetts made to the mother of his son, asking her to forgive him for something.

        “This is a man who understands the wrongfulness of conduct,” Mr. Cummings said.

        Questions posed by the justices revealed little. Justice Andrew Douglas seemed troubled by a prosecutor's statement that Mr. Tibbetts did not pay child support, because the statement was not directly related to the question of guilt or innocence.

        “That's clearly prejudicial,” Justice Douglas said. “It may be strong, but that's the way I feel. Maybe the jury felt that way.”

        Mr. Cummings, however, said any misstatement would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

        A ruling from the high court could come within three to six months.


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