Saturday, January 18, 2003

Board advises no clemency

Says state should execute man who lured, killed teen

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The state should carry out the death sentence of a northwest Ohio man who kidnapped, strangled and stabbed a college student after luring her to a phony job interview 14 years ago, the Ohio Parole Board said Friday.

The board, in a unanimous vote, recommended that Gov. Bob Taft reject the clemency request of Richard E. Fox, who has asked that his sentenced be commuted to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Mr. Fox, 46, is to die by lethal injection Feb. 12. His attorneys said earlier that they planned no more appeals.

Mr. Taft's office said a decision in death penalty cases usually takes a week. He has not granted clemency in the five previous death penalty cases since 1999, and never has gone against the board's recommendations.

The parole board noted in its recommendation that considerable deception was used to lure Leslie Keckler to the meeting that led to her death and the state would not be committing a manifest injustice by executing Mr. Fox.

Also, the board said, the circumstances of the crime outweighed Mr. Fox's previous clean criminal record and his good conduct while in prison.

"It is not over, simply because they voted against recommending clemency. We remain hopeful Gov. Taft will carefully look at this case and grant mercy," said Greg Meyers, chief of the Ohio Public Defender's death penalty section and one of Mr. Fox's attorneys.

Mr. Meyers said Mr. Fox's attorneys want the chance to present their case to Mr. Taft or his attorneys, and that Mr. Fox would like to meet with the governor or members of his staff.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro, said that Mr. Fox's attorneys, just like prosecutors, had the opportunity to make their case to the governor's staff during the parole board's hearing last week.

She noted that the board's decision was unanimous. In the other cases, one or two board members voted in favor of clemency.

"It appears the parole board studied the issues and facts carefully and provided well-reasoned opinions and recommendations," Ms. Norris said.

Mr. Fox, a native of Tontogany, was convicted in 1990 by a three-judge panel in Wood County of kidnapping and murdering Ms. Keckler, 18, of Bowling Green, after she showed up at a hotel on Sept. 26, 1989, for what she thought was an interview for a job selling restaurant supplies.

Mr. Fox told police he killed Ms. Keckler, whose body was found in a drainage ditch, but only after police confronted him about their report by another woman who said she had escaped a similar ruse months earlier.

Last week, prosecutors told the board that Mr. Fox used such schemes in the years before he killed Ms. Keckler as practice.

Mr. Fox's attorneys said their client used trickery with the intent to meet women, not to kill them.

His attorneys argued that Mr. Fox is not the "worst of the worst" criminals for whom the death penalty is intended. They also said Mr. Fox should be re-sentenced because the trial court used sentencing guidelines in 1994 that two years later the Supreme Court declared were flawed. The state contended that Mr. Fox's sentence would not be any different if the 1996 guidelines were followed.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, rejected Mr. Fox's request to delay the execution so the court could hear arguments that he should be re-sentenced.

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