ELYRIA — Former Lorain County Jail guard William Dembie Jr. was found guilty Friday of murder, felonious assault and domestic violence for killing his wife, Holly Dembie, on Aug. 11, 2011.
Dembie, 45, will receive a prison sentence of at least 15 years to life when he is sentenced Dec. 16.
Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski, who decided the case instead of a jury, cleared Dembie of the more serious aggravated murder charge that prosecutors had pushed for. Betleski also rejected the defense’s arguments that Dembie was guilty only of voluntary manslaughter.
Defense attorney J. Anthony Rich said after the verdict was handed down that he was pleased by Betleski’s decision.
“He was convicted on what we were willing to plead guilty to three weeks ago,” Rich said.
Cheryl Foldes, Holly Dembie’s mother, said she would have liked to have seen her former son-in-law convicted of aggravated murder, but was relieved he was at least found guilty of murder.
“He’s guilty. He’s a murderer,” Foldes said as she and her family left the courtroom.
Dembie told deputies after his arrest that “I just snapped. I seen red,” during an argument with his wife at their Cowley Road home in Grafton Township.
He said the argument began after he went into Holly Dembie’s bedroom after she returned home from a night out with friends. The argument centered on their failed marriage, another man she was seeing and her plans to divorce him, Dembie told deputies.
During the heated conversation, Dembie said, Holly Dembie pushed him, and he punched her in the face. After that, the estranged couple spent some time getting ice before the arguing started again.
This time, however, Dembie said he was armed with a combat knife, something he thought would force his wife to listen to him. But he said he became upset because she was telling him what he wanted to hear.
Prosecutors said Holly Dembie tried to flee and William Dembie chased her through the house. She made it into a second-floor bathroom and Dembie forced the door open to see her trying to escape out the window.
He told deputies that he pulled off Holly Dembie’s pants and stabbed her before letting her drop 14 feet and 8 inches to the ground. He then went downstairs and stabbed her several more times. In total there were eight stab wounds on Holly Dembie’s nude body, which was found in a pool of blood in the backyard.
Prosecutors argued that the killing was premeditated because Dembie had time to think about what he was doing when he went downstairs and outside to finish off the murder. But Betleski said there wasn’t enough evidence that Dembie was carrying out a plan to justify the aggravated murder charge.
Defense attorneys had argued that Dembie killed his wife in a sudden fit of passionate rage. But Betleski said the push from Holly Dembie and her words weren’t sufficient provocation to justify a voluntary manslaughter charge.
After killing Holly Dembie, William Dembie called the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and told a dispatcher that he had killed his wife during a fight. He described the killing as “almost a beheading” in the call.
Michael Foldes, Holly Dembie’s stepfather, said William Dembie abused his wife, who worked with special needs children at Midview Schools. He said he recalled walking Holly Dembie down the aisle at the couple’s wedding several years ago.
“He said ‘til death do us part,’ but that does not mean he kills her when he wants another relationship,” Michael Foldes said.