Sunday, July 20, 2003

Judge rules out confession in woman's death

Prosecutors appealing judge's decision

The Associated Press

AKRON, Ohio - A judge has ruled out as evidence a secretly recorded confession in which a mother admits to one daughter that she conspired with another daughter to kill an elderly woman.

The decision last week by Summit County Common Pleas Judge James Murphy has been appealed by prosecutors.

Prosecutors want to use the confession in their case against Michele Cramer, 41, and her daughter, Jamie Lee Wagner, 18.

Cramer was inside her Ravenna trailer when her oldest daughter, Renee Leonard, 25, of Cuyahoga Falls, came knocking last April.

Cramer was unaware that her daughter was wearing a microphone and that police, armed with an arrest warrant for her, were listening nearby.

Cramer also was unaware that Wagner, her younger daughter, was already under arrest after revealing that she and her mother used a pillow to suffocate Gysberta Boer, 79, in June 2002. Cramer was the caretaker for the Cuyahoga Falls woman.

In the tape-recorded statement, Cramer admits to Leonard that caring for the woman became too much of a burden.

Cramer was named as a beneficiary in Boer's will shortly after going to work for Boer in August 2001. The estate was worth an estimated $200,000 to $500,000.

"I just couldn't take it anymore, Renee, it was like that was it," Cramer says on the tape. "She asked us a 100 times to give her something and that day ... we couldn't take it anymore."

"Did you ask (Jamie) to do it?" Leonard asked. "We discussed it," Cramer said. "We were just going to put her out of her misery, basically. That's what we discussed."

Cramer was arrested when Leonard left the trailer.

Boer's death originally was attributed to natural causes. However, based on Wagner's confession that she used a pillow to kill the woman, Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler changed the cause to homicide.

In his ruling to disallow use of Cramer's conversation with her daughter, Murphy said Cramer was denied her rights because police had an arrest warrant for her and never intended to allow her to leave without being taken into custody. He said because Leonard was "directed and controlled by the police ... (she) became an agent" of police.

Prosecutors asked the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling. As it stands, prosecutors cannot use the statements and will likely try Cramer and Wagner separately.

Wagner is scheduled for trial Aug. 11. Both remain in Summit County Jail under $1 million bond. Wagner is charged with aggravated murder; Cramer is charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

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