November 26, 2014

Elyria
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Victim’s family argues for execution of Ronald Ray Post to go ahead

COLUMBUS — Calling Ronald Ray Post a “cold bastard,” William Vantz urged the Ohio Parole Board on Thursday to recommend that Gov. John Kasich let the scheduled execution of his mother’s killer go forward Jan. 16.

Post

“Post had shown no mercy to my mother,” William Vantz said as he described his decision to ask prosecutors to seek the death penalty in 1984. “He killed her in cold blood, cowardly, shot a 53-year-old defenseless woman twice in the back of the head. Didn’t look her in the eyes. He didn’t give a damn about what pulling the trigger meant to anyone but himself.”

He said Helen Vantz was a “kind-hearted and loving woman” who would have spoiled her grandchildren had she lived to meet them.

Sheryl Vantz, William Vantz’s wife, said Post’s execution will bring her family the closure they’ve needed since Post shot her mother-in-law while robbing the Slumber Inn in Elyria during the early morning hours of Dec. 15, 1983.

“The anger stage has been with us for 29 years,” an emotional Sheryl Vantz said during Thursday’s hearing. “We’ve never been able to let go of this. You can’t.”

Although none of Post’s family attended the hearing, his lawyers argued that the condemned man should be spared because of lingering questions over whether he was actually pulled the trigger during the robbery.

While they acknowledged Post was involved in the robbery and killing as a getaway driver, his attorneys accused another man, Ralph Hall, of being the one who went inside the motel and killed Vantz sometime between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“He deserves punishment, but a just punishment for Mr. Post is a life sentence,” Assistant Ohio Public Defender Rachel Troutman said as she urged the Parole Board to recommend clemency to Kasich.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the theory that Post wasn’t the gunman who ended Vantz’s life has no merit. Not only did Post agree that he was the sole robber when he entered a no contest plea to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in 1984, he also confessed, Will said.

“He admitted to at least four different people that he was the killer of Helen Vantz,” Will said.

William Vantz said that after he asked a three-judge panel in 1985 to impose a death sentence, Post tried to hire someone to kill him and a jailhouse informant.

“Is that the act of an innocent man?” he asked.

In addition to arguing that he didn’t kill Vantz, Post is fighting to halt his execution on the grounds that he is too obese to be executed quickly and painlessly as required by Ohio law. He contends that his weight and other medical issues would make it difficult for the execution team to access his veins to deliver the fatal overdose of sedatives used to execute inmates in Ohio.

They also have argued that a backup lethal injection protocol that calls for injecting the sedative into a condemned inmate’s muscle tissue would lead to a painful and lingering death. One federal judge already has rejected the argument, but a second judge has scheduled a hearing for later this month on the issue.

Post’s attorneys said Thursday it was more than just Post’s claim that he didn’t shoot Helen Vantz that should spare him. There also were problems with how the case was handled in the 1980s and during the lengthy appeals process.

For instance, they said Post never actually confessed to anyone that he was the one who shot Vantz.

“Sure ain’t no murderer,” they quoted Post as telling one witness.

According to police, Post confessed to robbing and killing Vantz to Ralph Hall and his wife, Debra Hall, a jailhouse informant named Richard Slusher and Lakewood police Detective Robert Holmok.

Holmok was hired by prosecutors to administer a polygraph examination to the Halls, which they passed, and by defense attorneys to test Post. Holmok never examined Post because during the conversation before the test began, Post signed a confession.

Post’s lawyers argue that it was inappropriate for Holmok to be working for both the prosecution and defense and contend that Post’s trial attorneys didn’t know that the detective was working for both sides. Will said that wasn’t the case.

He scoffed at the notion that the Halls, Slusher and Holmok all lied about what Post told them. Will said while those witnesses and others gave sometimes conflicting accounts, those discrepancies bolstered their believability.

If there actually was a conspiracy against Post, Will said, all of those involved would have gotten their stories straight. Post also was telling different people different things, he said.

The investigation determined that Post, Hall and Jeff Hoffner were out on Dec. 14, 1983, and had considered robbing several different establishments, including the Slumber Inn.

When they went to the motel, Carol Bokar, an acquaintance of Post’s, was working the front desk. The trio decided not to go through with the robbery, and Post dropped off Hall and Hoffner.

But he obtained­ Hall’s .22 caliber pistol, went back to the hotel and took Bokar out for drinks after her shift ended, according to court documents. Bokar told Vantz that Post might return later for a room.

William Vantz said his mother never would have let Post into the motel lobby if she was suspicious of him.

“She made one mistake in all those 13 years (working at the hotel), and it cost her her life,” he said.

Post returned about 3 a.m., but shot Vantz sometime after she made a 4 a.m. wake-up call to a guest, according to court documents. When she was found, she was slumped over a desk, a pencil still clasped in her hand.

Post stole a bank bag containing around $100 and Vantz’s purse before fleeing.

Mary Cheriki, Helen Vantz’s niece, recalled “the pain and the despair and the shock and the loss” she saw in her mother’s eyes after she learned of the murder.

Sheryl Vantz said she had to wake up her husband to tell him to go to Elyria Memorial Hospital because the county coroner had his mother.

William Vantz said the experience was surreal, but the autopsy results showed that his mother was in good health when she died.

“No signs of disease, no cancer, no heart problems. She should have lived a long life,” he said. “Only thing wrong was that two bullets had been shot into her head.”

Troutman and Assistant Federal Public Defender Joseph Wilhelm said the parole board also should spare Post because of problems with how his case was handled during previous rounds of appeals and in the run-up to his plea.

Wilhelm said one of Post’s defense attorneys, Mike Duff, wanted Post to plead no contest so he could appeal a decision that would allow Holmok to testify about Post’s confession. He said Duff didn’t believe Post would get the death penalty if he pleaded no contest.

Duff was essentially “playing Russian roulette with Post’s life,” Wilhelm said.

Post’s other trial lawyer, now-retired Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Lynett McGough, wasn’t convinced the no contest plea would spare Post a death sentence, Wilhelm said. She had talked to the judges and believed that unless Post pleaded guilty, something he refused to do, he would be sentenced to die.

Post ultimately decided to plead no contest, but Wilhelm said that was the result of “bickering and fractured advice” from his lawyers.

Wilhelm said Post would have been better served by his trial lawyers if he had taken his case to trial.

Cheriki said she can’t forgive Post for all the suffering he’s caused.

“Life means nothing to him, unless of course, it’s his own,” she said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.