ELYRIA — Retired Elyria police Detective Al Leiby on Monday said he has no doubt convicted killer Stanley Jalowiec was involved in the 1994 slaying of police informant Ronald Lally.
“I’m confident that the facts you have in front of you are the facts of this case,” Leiby told Visiting Judge Virgil Lee Sinclair during a hearing on Jalowiec’s efforts to win a new trial based on allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct.
Leiby also called accusations that he framed Jalowiec “ludicrous.”
Lally was supposed to testify in a drug trial Jan. 19, 1994, but never made the court date. Instead, investigators determined that Jalowiec, Raymond Smith and his son, Michael Smith, drove with Lally to a Cleveland cemetery where he was shot, stabbed, beaten and run over by a car.
Raymond Smith and Jalowiec were both convicted and sentenced to death, although a county judge later commuted Raymond Smith’s sentence to life in prison after ruling that he was mentally retarded and couldn’t be executed.
Leiby also rejected suggestions from Jalowiec’s attorney, Tara Thompson of the Chicago-based Exoneration Project, that he was in league with a man named Michael Shoeger and once left illegal drugs for the man who once lived with Raymond Smith’s other son, Daniel Smith, a drug dealer who was acquitted of involvement in Lally’s death.
“Please. Absolutely not. That’s insulting,” Leiby said.
Hetzel See, a former Elyria police officer, had accused Leiby of having a business relationship and friendship with Shoeger, including helping Shoeger get out of trouble and even tipping him off that Lally was an informant. Leiby has denied he even knows Shoeger.
See also accused the leadership of the Elyria Police Department in the 1990s of being “puppets” of county Prosecutor Dennis Will, who was a police lieutenant at the time.
See once tried to sue Will as part of a wrongful termination lawsuit he filed against Elyria police, but Will was removed from the case, which See ultimately won.
Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said that much of what See has said didn’t match up with other evidence in the case. For instance, See claimed that Leiby sat down and discussed the Lally murder case with him, but Leiby said he had a very low opinion of See and never would have talked about the case with him.
Also taking the stand Monday was the one person who was at the cemetery with Lally on the night he died to never faced charges. Michael Smith testified, as he has previously, that Jalowiec was involved in the killing.
Michael Smith, who reportedly remained in the car while Lally was killed, also testified that in 2000, his father hatched a plan to get himself and Jalowiec out of prison by having he and Daniel Smith change their stories about what happened. Rather than get involved, Michael Smith said he gave the letter his father sent him to Leiby.
Daniel Smith, who is serving prison time in an unrelated drug case, also was called to testify but said little on the advice of his attorney to avoid making incriminating statements.
Jalowiec’s lawyers have insisted that police and prosecutors withheld evidence that could have proven Jalowiec, who claims to have been sleeping at this mother’s house when Lally was killed, was innocent.
Joseph C. Grunda, one of Jalowiec’s trial attorneys, testified that he wasn’t given everything that prosecutors had back in the 1990s, although Sinclair pointed out that at the time prosecutors didn’t have to open their full file to defense attorneys.
Still, Grunda said that some of the evidence Jalowiec’s attorneys contend was withheld could have helped him to defend his client.
“I was looking for anything on his behalf,” he said.
Also testifying was Michael Conley, a former jail inmate who did time in the Lorain County Jail with Raymond and Daniel Smith as well as Jalowiec while they were awaiting trial in 1995.
He said the Smiths led him to believe Jalowiec was innocent and when he brought that information up to a guard, he was told that the guards heard claims like that all the time and didn’t believe them.
Sinclair said he will review the evidence and issue a ruling on whether he will allow the case to go further some time next year after lawyers for the two sides detail their arguments more fully in written form.