Updated Thu, Mar 6, 2014 10:20 am
An appeals court has upheld the 2013 conviction of William Inman in the aggravated murder of his estranged daughter-in-law.
Inman was convicted in the 2011 death of Summer Cook Inman, who was kidnapped from downtown Logan, strangled and her body placed in a church septic tank. Inman was charged with aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. A jury in Ross County Common Pleas Court, where the trial had been moved, convicted Inman and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Inman appealed the conviction to Ohio’s Fourth District Court of Appeals on grounds that the trial court did not allow him to use two pieces of evidence at the trial, specifically:
- The testimony of Hocking County Chief Deputy Matt Speckman, who purportedly would have testified that Inman’s co-defendant and wife, Sandra, told Speckman that her son was solely responsible for strangling Summer Cook Inman with a zip tie.
- A portion of the prosecution’s opening statement at the son’s trial at which the prosecutor said the son put the zip tie around the victim’s neck.
The trial court ruled that evidentiary rules did not allow either to be introduced at Inman’s trial. The appeals court agreed.
The defense had argued that Speckman should have been allowed to testify under an exception to the hearsay rule because Sandra Inman was unavailable to testify herself and because her statement was made against her own interests and therefore had believability.
The appeals court said it was never shown Sandra Inman was unavailable to testify and no attempt was made at Inman’s trial to call her has a witness. Also, her purported statement was not made against her own interests, the appeals court said.
As for the comments made by the prosecution at the son’s trial, the appeals court said those remarks were not evidence at the son’s trial and therefore could not be used as evidence at the father’s trial.
“We fail to see how remarks that have no evidentiary value at the trial in which they are made, are somehow admissible in the subsequent trial of a co-defendant,” the appeals court opinion stated.
The appeals court said that even if the trial court erred in keeping out the two pieces of information, it would not have prejudiced William Inman’s case. The defense had argued that the information demonstrated that Inman was not the principal offender and that he did not have specific intent to kill the victim.
However, the appeals court said the defense ignored the law of complicity, and that it need not be established that Inman was the principal offender.
“Considering the testimony at the trial, there was ample evidence to support a verdict that (Inman) was complicit in the killing of Summer and that (Inman) purposefully and with prior calculation and design caused the death of Summer, or, alternately that (Inman) was complicit in purposefully causing Summer’s death while committing or attempting to commit kidnapping,” the appeals court ruling stated.
The appeals court ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in the rulings it made.
The son, William Inman II, was convicted of aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse at his trial in 2012. That conviction had also been upheld by the 4th District Court, and the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear a further appeal.
Sandra Inman pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder of her daughter-in-law and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole until at least 15 years are served.