Monday, December 03, 2001

Defense up next in Rebholz case

Jurors to hear Wehrung's side in slaying

By John Nolan
The Associated Press

        The defense for a man accused of fatally beating his high school girlfriend in 1963 has argued that he is innocent, that the state's evidence is inadequate and that he shouldn't even be tried as an adult for the slaying.

        Now, lawyers for Michael Wehrung, 54, get their chance to present evidence beginning today to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court jury hearing his trial on the charge that he killed Patricia Ann Rebholz 38 years ago, when both were 15. Mr. Wehrung has pleaded not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder. If convicted, he could go to prison for life.

        Prosecution witnesses said the blonde cheerleader was choked into unconsciousness and then had her skull crushed with blows from a wooden piece of fence post on Aug. 8, 1963.

        Miss Rebholz was killed in a vacant lot across from Mr. Wehrung's boyhood home in suburban Greenhills as she walked from a teen dance on the night she planned to tell him she was ending their relationship to date another boy, prosecution witnesses said.

        Mr. Wehrung's lawyers said there were shortcomings in the state's evidence against him.

        Larry Zettler, a former Greenhills police officer, conceded under defense questioning that citizens had been allowed over the years to examine and handle physical evidence.

        A state examiner who attempted DNA testing of two pairs of Mr. Wehrung's pants that police confiscated in 1963 said the material had deteriorated to the point that she could not determine whether there had been blood on the pants, Mr. Zettler said.

        Former Cincinnati television news reporter Tom Schell testified Friday that Mr. Wehrung admitted in August 1963 that he slapped Miss Rebholz and she fell down. That happened the night of her slaying, Mr. Schell testified.

        Over defense objections, the jury will be allowed to examine notes that deceased police investigator Chris Waldeck Sr. kept for years at his home. The officer wrote of Mr. Wehrung: “He thought it was him that killed Pat. In fact, he was sure he did, but he couldn't remember anything about it.”


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