Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Man found guilty for role in woman's death

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - A jury recommended late Monday that an Indiana man spend 50 years in prison for his part in killing a 45-year-old Covington woman, cutting up her body and throwing it down a rural Boone County hill.

After six hours of deliberations, a jury in Boone Circuit Court convicted Leonard Day, 40, of complicity to murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Tina Rae Stevens, 45.

"The family is thrilled," said Tanya Maddin, Stevens' cousin. "This just shows us that there is justice in the world."

Family members, including Stevens' 28-year-old daughter, were "crying with smiles on their faces" as the verdict was read in front of Judge Jay Bamberger, Maddin said.

Sentencing will be Oct. 14.

During his closing argument, prosecutor Kurt Kruthoffer held up picture of Stevens and asked the jury to remember why they were there for four days: a life was taken.

"She was a mother, a sister, a grandmother," he told the jury, which had heard Stevens called a prostitute and drug user during the trial. "She wasn't perfect, not by any means. But no one deserves the kind of fate that she met. No one deserves to be thrown down a hill like a bag of trash."

Stevens' family cried quietly as Kruthoffer described the crimes with which Day and his girlfriend, Deborah Huiett, are charged: stabbing Stevens in a Florence motel room, dismembering her body so it would fit in a garment bag, and dumping it near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in May 1999.

Huiett, 43, is charged with murder and tampering with evidence. Her trial is to begin in January.

During the six hours of deliberations, Stevens' family told stories about her while sitting on the courthouse steps.

"She'd be out in the front yard showing all my girlfriends how to do cartwheels," said Michelle Martin, remembering her mother as fun-loving and caring. In the year before she died, Stevens had started using drugs and alcohol, but she was not a prostitute, Martin said.

Stevens' downward spiral came after her 21-year-old daughter committed suicide in 1998, her family said.

"She fell apart after that," said Stevens' sister Val Goetz. But she was still a mother, a sister and a grandmother, they said.

"You don't kill a person, you don't dismember a person," Martin said. "She's a human being. She's my mother, no matter what."


E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com

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