Monday, August 13, 2001

Ringer murder trial awaits high court

Defense requested removal of judge

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The trial of a popular downtown Cincinnati barber, accused of killing his former girlfriend and her unborn child in December, could be postponed to await a ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court.

        Tony Ringer's jury trial on two charges of aggravated murder in the Cassandra Betts slaying is scheduled to begin Tuesday. But the state's highest court has yet to decide on a request to remove the trial judge from the case.

        The affidavit, filed last week by Mr. Ringer's attorney, Kenneth Lawson, accuses Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Niehaus of bias and prejudice.

        The affidavit stems from the judge's decision to toss a subpoena that would have required him to testify as a defense witness.

        In March, Judge Niehaus received an unsigned letter from someone who claimed to be Ms. Betts' killer. The letter said Mr. Ringer did not kill the 25-year-old Fairfield woman and that the killer would turn himself in at a later date.

        In a taped statement given to police Dec. 21, Mr. Ringer said Ms. Betts died Dec. 20 as he struggled to take a gun away from her. Her body was found inside a car parked outside a Woodlawn car-repair shop. The marketing specialist, who worked at a Columbia-Tusculum firm, was six weeks pregnant at the time of death.

        Denying an appeal from Mr. Lawson to admit the letter as evidence, the judge called the letter an “obvious ruse” and quashed the witness subpoena that required him to testify for the defense.

        The judge also rejected Mr. Lawson's argument that he should recuse himself because he can't act as both a witness and the person who determines admissibility of evidence.

        Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, there are other pending motions that coulddelay Mr. Ringer's trial.

        The defense has requested a continuance because it needs additional time to investigate information recently turned over by the prosecution.

        In addition, the defense hopes to interview Ms. Betts' 7-year-old daughter, who, according to police, was present at the time of her mother's death.

        According to court records, the child told police that she “cannot recall all of the events that occurred that night.”


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