December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Closing arguments presented in William Dembie Jr. trial

William Dembie Jr. waves at his parents as he leaves the courtroom Tuesday afternoon with a Lorain County Sheriff's deputy. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

William Dembie Jr. waves at his parents as he leaves the courtroom Tuesday afternoon with a Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA – William Dembie Jr. knew what he was doing when he killed his wife, Holly Dembie, two years ago, prosecutors said during closing arguments in the former jail guard’s murder trial Wednesday.

“He did have a plan. He considered what he was doing,” Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Laura Dezort said. “He did execute that plan and executed his wife.”

William Dembie’s lawyers haven’t disputed that their client killed Holly Dembie in the early morning hours of Aug. 11, 2011, but they insist the slaying took place in a sudden fit of rage.

Defense attorney J. Anthony Rich said William Dembie is guilty of voluntary manslaughter or, at worst, murder. But he said the crime doesn’t reach the threshold to be considered an aggravated murder, which carries a maximum prison sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dembie, 45, could get up to 11 years if county Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski, who will decide the case instead of a jury, finds him guilty of voluntary manslaughter and 15 years to life behind bars if he’s convicted of murder.

After surrendering to deputies outside his Cowley Road home in Grafton Township, a blood-covered William Dembie insisted that he lost control and stabbed his wife with a KA-BAR combat knife.

“I just snapped, dude,” William Dembie could be heard saying on the recording of his conversation with detectives that was played in court Tuesday.

He told detectives that he and Holly Dembie got into an argument after she returned home from a night out with friends and he confronted her about her plans to divorce him and the affair she was having. He said his wife pushed him and he struck her, which led him to conclude he was going to be arrested.

William Dembie said they spent some time getting ice for his wife before the arguing resumed. This time William Dembie said he was armed with a sheathed knife, which he thought would compel Holly Dembie to listen to him.

Dezort said William Dembie decided to end his wife’s life.

“He says, ‘Why not? I’m screwed. Why not go whole hog?’” she said.

William Dembie told detectives he became upset with his wife when she began telling him what he wanted to hear. The confrontation turned violent, prosecutors argued, and Holly Dembie tried several times to flee, with her husband pulling off her shirt.

She fled into the second-floor master bedroom and was climbing out of the window when William Dembie said he forced the door open, pulled off her pants and stabbed her in the chest before letting her drop 14 feet and 8 inches from the window to the ground below.

Dezort said William Dembie could have stopped to help his injured wife or called 911, he continued on with his plan to kill her.

After her fall, William Dembie went downstairs and outside and stabbed her several more times, including in the neck area.

Former Deputy Lorain County Coroner John Daniels testified Wednesday that Holly Dembie was stabbed a total of eight times, with most of the wounds penetrating deep into her body.

William Dembie then dropped the knife next to his wife’s nude body, went inside and prepared items for his stay in jail and called the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office. He told then-Dispatcher Joi Sanchez in a calm voice she compared Tuesday to ordering a pizza that he had killed and nearly beheaded his wife.

Rich said that prosecutors were stretching the idea of a premeditated killing. He argued that after William Dembie “snapped” he was acting in a fit of rage and passion that led him to kill his wife.

“This could have clearly happened in seconds,” he said.

Rich said that given the short time period between the first stab wound and the fall and William Dembie going downstairs and outside to stab his wife more, there wasn’t time for his client to formulate a plan. He said if that was the case, prosecutors could argue that every murder was a planned aggravated murder.

But Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said that the law doesn’t specify exactly how long a murder has to be planned in order for it to be premeditated.

Betleski said he plans to issue a verdict before the end of the week.

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