August 1, 2014

Elyria
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Kasich to explain commutation to victim’s family

Gov. John Kasich has agreed to meet with the family of the slain Helen Vantz to discuss his decision late last year to commute the death sentence of convicted killer Ronald Ray Post to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The family of Vantz, whom Post shot and killed during a robbery Dec. 15, 1983, at Slumber Inn, had previously said they were disappointed with Kasich’s decision.

The governor wrote that he had concerns about the representation Post received before he pleaded no contest to charges he killed Vantz. Post’s lawyers argued that his trial attorneys failed him because they didn’t secure a guarantee he wouldn’t receive a death sentence before he entered the plea.

In a Dec. 28, 2012, letter to Kasich requesting the meeting, two of Vantz’s sons, Michael Vantz and Daniel Vantz, wrote that they wanted the governor to explain his decision to spare Post.

“Only a face-to-face with you would suffice in the absence of the fulfillment of justice,” the letter said. “Only your words and the explanations directly from yourself, in our perspective, could come close to any modicum of finality for all the pain of the past three decades.”

The Vantzes also warned the governor that they planned to ask him pointed questions about his decision and said that they had made jokes at his expense after Kasich announced his decision. They wrote that they had crafted jokes about him, including mocking what his favorite James Bond movies were, including “Die Another Day,” “You Only Live Twice” and “Dr. No.”

Kasich’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, said that since taking office, Kasich has never held a meeting like the one planned with the Vantzes.

“They requested the meeting and we said yes,” Nichols said.

Kasich followed the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board when he decided to cancel Post’s scheduled Jan. 16 execution. The Parole Board also had expressed concerns about the legal representation Post received.

The decision had nothing to do with Post’s widely publicized efforts to avoid execution because of his weight. His lawyers had argued that Post’s obesity and other medical issues would prevent him from dying in a humane manner.

Post’s attorneys also have argued that he deserves a new trial, contending that he wasn’t the gunman who shot and killed Vantz, he was the getaway driver.

Now-retired Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Edward Zaleski rejected a request to reopen the case last year. Post’s attorneys have appealed that decision.

Nichols said a date for the meeting between Kasich and the Vantz family has not been set.

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