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Robert Anthony BUELL

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 17, 1982
Date of arrest: November 1983
Date of birth: September 10, 1940
Victim profile: Krista Harrison (female, 11)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Wayne County, Ohio, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Ohio on September 24, 2002
 
 
 
 
 
 
clemency report
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

Krista was abducted from a park across the street from where she lived in the village of Marshallville on July 11, 1982, as she collected aluminum cans with a boy. Her body was found six days later.

Buell, a former Akron city planner who lived in the nearby town of Clinton, claimed he was innocent and that there was no eyewitness or DNA evidence connecting him to the crime.

Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming. It included fibers on Krista's body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Buell's van and blue and tan paint found on men's jeans dumped at the crime scene that matched paint found in Buell's home.

The crime went unsolved for 15 months.

Buell was identified as the prime suspect immediately after he was arrested in October 1982 for abducting a Columbiana County woman at gunpoint, handcuffing her to his bed in Summit County's Franklin Township and raping her.

Buell pleaded no contest to that rape, as well as to kidnapping and raping a Chester, W.Va., woman and holding her captive at his home for 3 days. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes.

Final Meal:

A single black, unpitted olive.

Final Words:

“Jerry and Shirley, I didn’t kill your daughter. The prosecutor knows that . . . and they left the real killer out there on the streets to kill again and again and again. So that some good may come of this, I ask that you continue to pursue this to the end. Don't let the prosecutor continue to spin this out of focus and force them to find out who really killed your daughter. That's all I have to say."

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

Robert Buell was sentenced to die for the murder and sexual assault of 11-year-old Krista Harrison in 1982.

Krista was playing at a neighborhood park in 1982 when a man grabbed her, dragged her screaming into his van, and drove off.

The body of the 11-year-old Marshallville girl was found 6 days later. She had been raped and strangled.

Lawyers defending 60-year-old Buell appealed his death penalty case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, marking Buell's 3rd and final round of appeals.

Buell, a former Akron Planning Department worker, was convicted of murdering Krista Lea Harrison on July 17, 1982. Assistant Attorney General Jon W. Oebker reminded the court that while Krista Lea had 11 years of life, Buell has had 18 years of due process. Buell received a last-minute reprieve from the electric chair in January 1996 with a 5-4 stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. That stay has been in place ever since.

The girl was picking up aluminum cans in a park near her rural Wayne County home when she was abducted. Her decomposing body was found in Holmes County six days later.

Less than a week before the abduction, Buell, a former Akron Planning Department worker, purchased custom-made van seats that were packaged in the same type of material used to dispose of the body. Buell also owned a van matching the vehicle witnesses saw when the girl was abducted. Orange-colored carpet fibers found on Krista Lea's body matched those found in Buell's home and van.

Buell was identified as the prime suspect immediately after he was arrested in October 1982 for abducting a Columbiana County woman at gunpoint, handcuffing her to his bed in Summit County's Franklin Township and raping her. Buell pleaded no contest to that rape, as well as to kidnapping and raping a Chester, W.Va., woman and holding her captive at his home for 3 days. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes.

In an interview last year with the Akron Beacon Journal, Buell said he was at work when Krista Lea was abducted and that a serial rapist remains on the loose.

In his appeal to the 6th Circuit panel, Buell's arguments were aimed at a 1999 decision by U.S. District Judge Paul R. Matia, who denied him a new trial.

The appellate judges rebuffed Buell's contention that Matia should have recused himself because, as a state senator in 1981, Matia sponsored a bill restoring Ohio's death penalty.

The appellate judges also upheld Matia's rulings that many of Buell's appeals were invalid because they previously were not argued to lower courts.

The panel further denied Buell's claims of constitutional violations concerning the trial court's jury instructions, the judge's refusal to allow testimony from an eyewitness identification expert, ineffective counsel, prosecutorial misconduct and claims that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. On the issue of hypnosis, the judges ruled that, "Neither the disclosure that witnesses had been hypnotized nor the suppression of hypnotically refreshed testimony would have created a reasonable probability that the result of Buell's trial would have been different."

 
 

No Clemency for Buell

By Jeff Ortega - The Daily Record

September 24, 2002

COLUMBUS - Convicted child killer Robert A. Buell is scheduled to be moved to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville early today in preparation for his scheduled execution Wednesday, his lawyer said.

Buell, 62, is keeping his spirits up despite Monday's denial of clemency by Gov. Bob Taft, Buell lawyer Mike Benza said. "He has known that this is a likely outcome in his case," said Benza, who said spoke Monday by phone with Buell.

Buell is being held on Death Row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. "He has prepared himself to deal with this," Benza said. Buell has been sentenced to death for the 1982 kidnapping and killing of 11-year-old Krista Harrison of Marshallville. Buell is scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Taft said the brutality of the crime and Buell's failure to accept responsibility for Krista's death contributed to his decision not to spare Buell's life. "I find the aggravating circumstances and brutality of this crime, as well as Mr. Buell's other extensive and violent conduct, outweigh any mitigating factors, and I can find no compelling reason to grant clemency in this case," Taft, a Republican, said in a prepared statement. The Ohio Parole Board last week also recommended Buell not be given clemency.

According to court records, Buell, a former Akron city worker, was convicted of snatching Krista from Marshallville Park in broad daylight on July 17, 1982. Days later, Krista's body was discovered in a remote area of Holmes County. An autopsy showed Krista had been sexually assaulted and then strangled, court records say.

Investigators collected several pieces of evidence from the crime scene, said information from the Wayne County prosecutor and the Ohio attorney general's office. Two gloves with orange carpet fibers were found. Also discovered were a clump of hair, a blanket, a green garbage bag with tape on it and two pieces of a cardboard box with the shipping label sprayed over with black paint.

Testing showed the carpet found at the crime scene matched carpet seized from a van owned by Buell and from Buell's home. Testing also showed hair samples from Krista and hair samples found at the crime scene were consistent. To avoid potential pretrial publicity, the trial was moved from Wayne County to Cuyahoga County, but Buell was convicted on April 4, 1984 on all counts and sentenced to die.

Aside from his conviction in Krista's case, Buell also had pleaded no contest in 1983 to raping two women and was sentenced to 121 years in prison. Benza said Taft's denial of clemency was expected and is continuing legal attempts to save Buell's life.

Benza has appealed to the 8th District Court of Appeals a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court decision denying Buell's petition for post conviction relief. Benza has also asked the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati for permission to file a habeas corpus action in U.S. District Court.

 
 

Convicted Killer Executed For Raping, Strangling Girl

By Liz Foreman - Cincinnati Enquirer

AP September 25, 2002

The state put a man to death by injection Wednesday for raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl 20 years ago.

Robert Buell, 62, was executed for killing Krista Harrison. State and federal courts turned down last-minute appeals based on objections to the hypnotizing of witnesses at his trial. It was the state's fifth execution in three years. His time of death was 10:30 a.m. The state said Buell gave a one-minute statement.

A handful of protesters were outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on Wednesday. Tom O'Brien, 38, a graduate student in social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said his research convinced him the death penalty is inherently unfair. "I saw the injustices that were prevalent throughout the system, and said I need to take a stand against it," he said.

Prison officials said Buell awoke at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and had a breakfast of bran flakes and a glass of milk. He spent time listening to the radio in his cell. He ate his special meal at 4:06 p.m. Tuesday -- a single black, unpitted olive, Dean said. Prison officials researched, but failed to find, any significance in the request.

Buell came close to dying in 1996. He awaited a court decision until 17 minutes after the scheduled execution, when a delay was upheld.

Outside the prison, seven protesters set up posters with the photos of the four men executed since 1999, with candles ready to be lighted on the ground. A poster to the side held a picture of the slain girl, Krista Harrison, with a white silk rose attached. Some were among small groups of death penalty protesters who had gathered Tuesday in Cleveland and Akron, including Kathy Soltis, a member of the Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The number of protesters have shrunk since the state switched to daytime executions, Soltis said. Also, Buell is a "less sympathetic figure," she said, because the victim was a child and Buell is not mentally ill.

Krista was abducted from a park across the street from where she lived in the village of Marshallville on July 11, 1982, as she collected aluminum cans with a boy. Her body was found six days later. Buell, a former Akron city planner who lived in the nearby town of Clinton, claimed he was innocent and that there was no eyewitness or DNA evidence connecting him to the crime.

Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming. It included fibers on Krista's body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Buell's van and blue and tan paint found on men's jeans dumped at the crime scene that matched paint found in Buell's home. The crime went unsolved for 15 months until a 28-year-old woman who was abducted at gunpoint and raped and tortured at Buell's home escaped and ran to a neighbor's house. The details of the assault led to his arrest for Krista's death.

Buell pleaded no contest to rape and other charges from the attack on the 28-year-old and the abduction and rape five months earlier of a 29-year-old woman. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes. Buell was later named as the chief suspect in the slayings of two other girls and identified by other victims of sexual assault in northeast Ohio.

 
 

Buell's Sister Says Brother Didn't Do The Crime

By Shannon Kettler - Wcpo.com

September 24, 2002

A Norwood native scheduled to be put to death Wednesday for raping and killing a little girl may get more time. Twenty years ago, a jury convicted Robert Buell of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in northeastern Ohio.

Tuesday, a state appeals court asked for a delay so they can review new evidence presented by Buell's attorneys. They'll have a hearing at 8 a.m., but at this time Buell is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville at 10 a.m.

Buell's sister said her brother is innocent and that police have the wrong man. Robert Buell, 62, is already serving a life sentence for raping two women back in the early 1980's, but his sister wants the courts to grant her brother a new trial because there is new evidence that she said raises reasonable doubt about his involvement in the crime.

Buell's sister asked 9News not to reveal her name or show her face out of concern for her safety, but she wanted to make sure his story is heard. "He repeatedly says I did not do this," Buell's sister said. "I don't want him to die."

Robert Buell graduated from Norwood High School, served in the US Navy, and later married and moved to northeastern Ohio. His sister said she drifted apart from her brother when he started abusing drugs and alcohol. "He would have black outs like most alcoholics where they wake up and don't know where they are at or how they got there and he would do that," she said.

Buell's sister made contact with Buell after she learned of his two rape convictions and then his conviction for kidnapping, raping and killing Krista Harrison, 11. While Buell was on death row, his sister began to write him letters and learn more about his case. "There's just too many things that don't make sense to me and it was mostly circumstantial stuff," she said.

Buell's lawyer would like to present new evidence Wednesday, including a statement from a witness who indicated a different time frame for the murder, clearing Buell. Buell's sister hopes the courts will listen, if only to spare his life. "I don't want him out of prison but I don't want him killed, not for something that isn't definitely something he did. There's just too many loose ends. I think there's room for reasonable doubt," she said.

Buell's attorneys plan to go before the Ohio District Court of Appeals in Cleveland to argue their new evidence Wednesday. They also requested the Supreme Court of Ohio to stop the execution. Ohio Governor Bob Taft refused to stop Buell's execution after the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency. The governor had the option of reducing Buell's sentence to life in prison.

 
 

Taft Denies Clemency for Man Facing Execution

Cincinnati Enquirer

AP September 24, 2002

COLUMBUS — Gov. Bob Taft refused Monday to stop the execution of a man convicted of raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl 20 years ago. Robert Buell, 62, is scheduled to die by injection Wednesday. His lawyers have asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati for a delay.

The Ohio Parole Board had unanimously recommended that Mr. Taft reject clemency. Mr. Taft could have reduced Buell's sentence to life in prison. “In spite of the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Mr. Buell is unrepentant and has failed to accept responsibility for the death,” Mr. Taft said in a statement. Four men have been executed since Mr. Taft took office in 1999. He denied clemency each time.

Mr. Buell, a former Akron city worker who lived in Clinton, was convicted of killing Krista Harrison, who was kidnapped July 17, 1982, from a park across the street from her home in Marshallville in northeast Ohio. Her body was found six days later along a country road. His lawyers claimed prosecutors withheld evidence that witnesses had been hypnotized, but state and federal appeals courts have ruled prosecutors did not act improperly and the witnesses were not crucial to Mr. Buell's conviction.

Mr. Taft noted that for 18 years the highest state and federal courts have reviewed and upheld Mr. Buell's conviction and sentence, finding that he received a fair trial and had adequate legal representation. “I find that the aggravating circumstances and brutality of this crime, as well as Mr. Buell's other extensive and violent conduct, outweigh any mitigating factors, and I can find no compelling reason to grant clemency in this case,” Mr. Taft said.

 
 

Convicted Killer Robert Buell Executed for Raping, Strangling Girl

Ohio Death Penalty News

In Lucasville, the state executed a man Wednesday who in his final statement insisted that the "real killer" of an 11-year-old girl 20 years ago was still free. Robert Buell, 62, directed his statement to the parents of Krista Harrison who he was convicted of raping and strangling.

"Jerry and Shirley, I didn't kill your daughter. The prosecutor knows that ... and they left the real killer out there on the streets to kill again and again and again," Buell said moments before his death by injection. "So that some good may come of this, I ask that you continue to pursue this to the end. Don't let the prosecutor continue to spin this out of focus and force them to find out who really killed your daughter. That's all I have to say."

State and federal courts turned down last-minute appeals based on Buell's objections to the hypnotizing of witnesses at his trial. Buell was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m.

A handful of protesters were outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on Wednesday. Tom O'Brien, 38, a graduate student in social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said his research convinced him the death penalty is inherently unfair. "I saw the injustices that were prevalent throughout the system, and said I need to take a stand against it," he said.

Buell, a former Akron city planner, claimed he was innocent and that there was no eyewitness or DNA evidence connecting him to the crime. He also argued that he could not defend himself properly because prosecutors withheld evidence that witnesses were hypnotized. Buell's lawyers say the hypnosis enhanced or altered the witnesses' memories before they testified.

Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming. It included fibers on Krista's body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Buell's van and blue and tan paint found on men's jeans dumped at the crime scene that matched paint found in Buell's home.

Prison officials said Buell awoke at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and had a breakfast of bran flakes and a glass of milk. He spent time listening to the radio in his cell. He ate his special meal at 4:06 p.m. Tuesday - a single black, unpitted olive, Dean said. Prison officials researched, but failed to find, any significance in the request. Buell came close to dying in 1996. He awaited a court decision until 17 minutes after the scheduled execution, when a delay was upheld.

Outside the prison, seven protesters set up posters with the photos of the four men executed since 1999, with candles ready to be lighted on the ground. A poster to the side held a picture of the slain girl, Krista Harrison, with a white silk rose attached. Some were among small groups of death penalty protesters who had gathered Tuesday in Cleveland and Akron, including Kathy Soltis, a member of the Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

The number of protesters have shrunk since the state switched to daytime executions, Soltis said. Also, Buell is a "less sympathetic figure," she said, because the victim was a child and Buell is not mentally ill.

Krista was abducted from a park across the street from where she lived in the village of Marshallville on July 11, 1982, as she collected aluminum cans with a boy. Her body was found 6 days later. The crime went unsolved for 15 months until a 28-year-old woman who was abducted at gunpoint and raped and tortured at Buell's home escaped and ran to a neighbor's house. The details of the assault led to his arrest for Krista's death.

Buell pleaded no contest to rape and other charges from the attack on the 28-year-old and the abduction and rape five months earlier of a 29-year-old woman. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes. Buell was later named as the chief suspect in the slayings of two other girls and identified by other victims of sexual assault in northeast Ohio.

Buell becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Ohio and the 5th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999. Buell becomes the 52nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 801st overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press, Akron Beacon Journal & Rick Halperin)

 
 

Buell Maintains Innocence Until the End

Robert Anthony Buell was executed this morning by lethal injection for the July 1982 abduction and slaying of 11-year-old Krista Lea Harrison of Marshallville.

Buell, a former loan specialist with the city of Akron's Planning Department, was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. inside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

Buell, 62, gave a one-minute statement just before prison officials unleashed a triple dose of drugs that eventually stopped his heart. He said once again -- as he has maintained for his 18 years on death row -- that he did not kill Krista.

His death was witnessed by the Harrison men: Krista's father, Gerald, and older brothers Mark and Dana. 20 years ago, the brothers served as pallbearers at their sister's funeral. Although he was permitted to have 3 witnesses, Buell declined. He leaves his mother Ola, sister Carole and a 37-year-old daughter.

Buell was convicted in 1984 for the murder of Krista, who was abducted from a park across the street from her home in July 1982. Her body was found 6 days later in a remote area of Holmes County. Although Buell was identified as a suspect months after her murder, he was not arrested until 1983, when a 28-year-old Damascus woman escaped from his home after being abducted at gunpoint by Buell and taken to his Clinton home, where she was beaten, raped and tortured.

Rare carpet fibers found inside Buell's van and home were linked to those found on Krista's body. Additionally, paint stains found on a pair of men's jeans found near the crime scene matched those found at Buell's home.

The jeans and a shirt were similar in size and brand name to those Buell owned. Buell was also a suspect, but never charged, in the abductions and slaying of Tina Marie Harmon, 12, of Creston, and Deborah Kaye Smith, 11, of Massillon. He was also identified by women and teen-age girls, who were sexually assaulted in the 1980s.

Buell pleaded no contest to charges related to the abduction and rape of the Damascus woman and also a Pennsylvania woman, who was abducted and raped by Buell inside his home. Buell was serving a 121-year prison term when he went on trial for Krista's murder. A jury convicted him after an 11-day trial and recommended a death sentence. Through his pastor, the Rev. Ernie Sanders, Buell conceded he stalked and abducted women, but said he "draws the line" when it comes to children. Prosecutors said the evidence of Buell's guilt in Krista's death was overwhelming.

Convicted killer listens to classical music hours before scheduled execution

A convicted killer listened to classical music in his cell hours before his scheduled execution Wednesday as another court refused his request for a delay. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday joined lower courts in deciding not to stop the execution of Robert Buell, whose appeal was based on objections to the hypnotizing of witnesses at his trial.

A handful of protesters were outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on Wednesday. Tom O'Brien, 38, a graduate student in social work at Case Western Reserve University, said his research convinced him the death penalty is inherently unfair. "I saw the injustices that were prevalent throughout the system, and said I need to take a stand against it," said O'Brien, who was attending his first death penalty protest.

A state appeals court in Cleveland had wanted more time to consider Buell's appeal but canceled plans for a hearing when the Ohio Supreme Court refused the request. The 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals said it would issue a written ruling. Prison officials said Buell awoke at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and had a breakfast of bran flakes and a glass of milk. He spent time listening to the radio in his cell. Buell was prepared for the worst, said one of his attorneys, Jeffrey Kelleher.

Outside the prison, 7 protesters set up posters with the photos of the 4 men executed since 1999, with candles ready to be lighted on the ground. A poster to the side held a picture of the slain girl, Krista Harrison, with a white silk rose attached. Some were among small groups of death penalty protesters who had gathered Tuesday in Cleveland and Akron, including Kathy Soltis, a member of the Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The number of protesters have shrunk since the state switched to daytime executions, Soltis said. Also, Buell is a "less sympathetic figure," she said, because the victim was a child and Buell is not mentally ill.

Krista was abducted from a park across the street from where she lived in the village of Marshallville on July 11, 1982, as she collected aluminum cans with a boy. Her body was found 6 days later.

Buell, a former Akron city planner who lived in the nearby town of Clinton, claimed he was innocent and that there was no eyewitness or DNA evidence connecting him to the crime. He also argued that he could not defend himself properly because prosecutors withheld evidence that witnesses were hypnotized. Buell's lawyers say the hypnosis enhanced or altered the witnesses' memories before they testified.

Prosecutors argued that evidence for his 1984 conviction was overwhelming. It included fibers on Krista's body that matched fibers taken from carpet in Buell's van and blue and tan paint found on men's jeans dumped at the crime scene that matched paint found in Buell's home. The crime went unsolved for 15 months until a 28-year-old woman who was abducted at gunpoint and raped and tortured at Buell's home escaped and ran to a neighbor's house. The details of the assault led to his arrest for Krista's death.

Buell pleaded no contest to rape and other charges from the attack on the 28-year-old and the abduction and rape 5 months earlier of a 29-year-old woman. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes. Buell was later named as the chief suspect in the slayings of two other girls and identified by other victims of sexual assault in northeast Ohio.

 
 

Robert Buell Timeline

  • July 17, 1982 -- 11-year-old Krista Lea Harrison of Marshallville is abducted.

  • July 23, 1982 -- Krista's body found.

  • October 1983 -- A 28-year-old woman flees the home of Buell, claiming she was kidnapped and raped.

  • Nov. 15, 1983 -- Buell is indicted for the slaying of Krista.

  • Jan. 30, 1984 -- Buell is sentenced to 121 years for the kidnapping and rape of 2 women.

  • April 4, 1984 -- Buell convicted of aggravated murder, sexual penetration and kidnapping of Krista.

  • April 11, 1984 -- Judge upholds a jury's death sentence recommendation for Buell.

  • Oct. 7, 1986 -- U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Buell's appeal.

  • Aug. 22, 1988 -- Prosecutors admit some witnesses in the murder case were hypnotized to aid recall.

  • Dec. 30, 1988 -- Request for a new trial is denied.

  • Feb. 7, 1992 -- The Ohio Supreme Court rejects Buell's appeal.

  • Jan. 22, 1996 -- Buell taken to "Death House" at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

  • Jan. 23, 1996 -- The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals grants a stay of execution.

  • July 22, 1999, Dec. 4, 2001 -- More appeals denied.

  • July 11, 2002 -- Execution by lethal injection set for Sept. 25.

(sources for all: Associated Press & Akron Beacon Journal)

 
 

Abolish Archives

January 31, 2001 OHIO:

Lawyers defending 60-year-old killer Robert A. Buell appealed his death penalty case yesterday to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, marking Buell's 3rd and final round of appeals. Dennis Harrell, senior motions attorney for the federal court, said a decision is not expected soon, particularly since a new execution date has not been set for Buell.

Buell, a former Akron Planning Department worker, was convicted of murdering Krista Lea Harrison on July 17, 1982.

Assistant Attorney General Jon W. Oebker reminded the court yesterday that while Krista Lea had 11 years of life, Buell has had 18 years of due process.

Buell received a last-minute reprieve from the electric chair in January 1996 with a 5-4 stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. That stay has been in place ever since. Buell was found guilty in April 1984 of abducting Krista Lea from a park near her Marshallville home, then raping and strangling her.

Cleveland lawyer Jeffry F. Kelleher said the U.S. District Court judge who denied Buell's habeas corpus petition should have recused himself. "We're saying, among other things, that the case should go back to the district to rule on merits," Kelleher said. "This is not a time for new things. There are procedural issues, some substantive issues."

Kelleher said the 6th Circuit can do several things, including reverse U.S. District Court Judge Paul R. Matia and grant the petition -- or send the case back to Matia. As a key sponsor of Ohio's capital punishment law when he was in the General Assembly, Matia should never have heard Buell's case, according to Kelleher. "There's an appearance of impropriety," he said. Either side also can appeal a 6th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(source: Akron Beacon Journal)

 
 

TheLittlestAngels.net

Mansfield, OH -- June 11, 2000 -- Like a caged animal, Robert A. Buell paces back and forth in handcuffs and leg irons, shaking documents from a murder trial 17 years earlier.

The case may be old, but time is of the essence for the 59-year-old death-row inmate and former Akron Planning Department worker. If Buell loses a federal court appeal in Cincinnati this summer, he expects to be executed a year from now for murdering an 11-year-old Wayne County girl in 1982. So Buell is running out of time. And the man who has never previously granted a media interview wants to talk.

He wants to tell people he didn't do it. That he didn't kill Krista Lea Harrison. That he didn't murder two other girls in whose deaths he is suspected but has never been charged. The ground rules of the interview, crafted in a one-page letter to a reporter, are clear: He won't talk about the life of a condemned killer. "Don't waste your time or mine,'' he writes.

Buell wants to talk only about his case, particularly in view of the recent onslaught of cases in which innocent people have been released from death rows across the nation because they were wrongly convicted. It would be naive to think, he writes, that Ohio doesn't have a few of the same. "I can prove with the prosecutor's own evidence, some of which was concealed from the defense, that I did not kill Krista Harrison,'' he writes. Even Buell seems to know he's got some difficult convincing ahead, writing: "I know -- they all say that!''

The interview is arranged for a morning late in May, a 90-minute session inside Mansfield Correctional Institution. Graying and frequently out of breath as he paces the room, Buell looks more like an absent-minded professor than a crazed killer awaiting execution. But he is agitated and eager to talk, eager to prove his innocence.

"Why should I have to pay for a murder I really didn't commit?'' said Buell. ``I'm not asking anyone to make a leap of faith in my case. Believe only what I can prove with facts.''

The facts have always been against Buell. Although nobody saw him abduct or murder Krista Lea, prosecutors built a convincing case on physical evidence that led to his conviction: Six days before Krista's abduction, Buell picked up custom-made van seats at Sears, Roebuck and Co. Packaging matching the type used for the seats had been used to dispose of the body. Buell had a van matching one described by witnesses who saw Krista Lea disappear -- brown or purple with teardrop- or bubble-shaped windows.

A neighbor testified that the windows in Buell's van were replaced with square ones a day or two after the description of the kidnapper's van began to dominate local news. Carpet fibers found on Krista Lea's body -- a rare orange shade -- matched fibers found in Buell's van and home.

Buell -- whose name had already shown up on a list of people who had bought the van seats from Sears -- was identified as the prime suspect in Krista Lea's death immediately after he was arrested in October 1982 for abducting a Columbiana County woman at gunpoint, then handcuffing her to his bed in Summit County's Franklin Township and raping her. Buell pleaded no contest to that rape, as well as to kidnapping and raping a Chester, W.Va., woman and holding her captive at his home for three days before releasing her in Pennsylvania. For those crimes, he was sentenced to 121 years in prison.

"I never denied it,'' Buell said of one rape, though the former drug user and heavy drinker said he suffered blackouts. "I didn't remember them,'' he said. But Buell says he has evidence obtained through a 1992 public records request that casts doubt on his murder conviction. He has found statements from witnesses who were never called to testify, including one who told police he saw a vehicle that looked like the killer's at a time when Buell was at work.

Then there is the other evidence Buell wants people to see and hear. An avid newspaper reader -- as well as jailhouse lawyer eager to help his fellow inmates -- Buell has meticulously tracked newspaper accounts of murders of girls in Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He hopes to prove that a killer using his MO is still out there, while he's in prison. Buell claims to have identified six more cases of strangulation and molestation similar to Krista Lea's.

Police have considered Buell as a suspect in two of them (while never charging him), but the other four occurred after he was imprisoned. The only problem is that the deadline has expired on introducing newly found statements, and this reminder from the reporter gets the 5-foot-11 Buell worked up. He loses his breath. Then he's pacing the conference room again, pointing to hand-drawn maps and sworn statements that he insists would clear him of the murder.

He used a purple marker to highlight the documents. "I do get a little intense when talking about my case,'' Buell said. "It upsets, nah, it pisses me off that the prosecutor, knowing full well that I did not commit this murder, would take me to trial. A greater sin is, in doing so, he left a killer on the streets to kill again, and maybe again and again.''

Buell was found guilty in April 1984 of abducting Krista Lea from a park within sight of her Marshallville home on July 17, 1982, raping her and strangling her. Her badly decomposed body, partially wrapped in plastic, was found near a shed in Holmes County six days later. After a trial held in Cleveland because of publicity in Summit and Wayne counties, Wayne County Judge Mark K. Wiest sentenced Buell to death.

One of the witnesses who gave a statement to police but was never called to testify was George Dawson of Lakeville, who found a shirt that was used to link Buell to the crime scene the day Krista's body was found. George Dawson's son, David, also gave police a statement that places a van resembling the killer's on a rural Holmes County road the morning Krista Lea's body was found July 23, 1982 -- a time when Buell was at work. The Dawsons also saw a shirt, pants and gloves later linked to the crime that appeared to have been recently discarded.

"There's no question he (Buell) was at work in the morning,'' said Akron lawyer Patricia A. Millhoff, one of Buell's court-appointed lawyers. The witness who did testify at trial said he saw Buell on the road in the late afternoon, when Buell's alibi was weaker. It turned out the witness' statement was given to police after hypnosis.

Millhoff and Buell also cite data from an Ohio State University entomologist showing that fly larvae found on the body could not have hatched in two to four hours, as a police officer claimed. It would have taken 12 to 24 hours, according to the scientific estimate, placing the girl's body on the Holmes County road much earlier than the van was seen.

Several witnesses gave differing descriptions of Buell and his van. They disagreed about the color of the van seen abducting Krista -- calling it navy, purple, raspberry, brown, maroon and burgundy. "There are all kinds of reports on this van,'' Buell said, holding up his burgundy eyeglass case. "It was a little bit darker than this here. "A 10-year-old kid doesn't know what burgundy is,'' Buell snarled. But he's most incensed about the witnesses whose statements were concealed.

"They withheld a key witness in this case,'' Buell said. Instead of George Dawson, it was Roger Pennell of Nashville near Millersburg, who was a captain with the Holmes County Sheriff's Department at the time, who testified about the shirt Dawson found.

In a telephone interview this week, Pennell couldn't recall why the Dawsons were never called to testify, and they could not be located to comment for this article. Pennell dismisses the significance of the Dawsons. ``There was so much evidence in that case that linked him to the scene, it was really pathetic,'' Pennell said.

Lawrence J. Whitney of Akron, one of 11 lawyers to represent Buell over the years, could not immediately recall details about trial witnesses and declined to talk further without written consent from Buell. But Millhoff and the other lawyer currently representing Buell, Jeffry F. Kelleher of Cleveland, said it is too late to introduce evidence that Buell didn't have until 1992. Without some extraordinary new evidence -- such as DNA not available at that time -- appeals must be based on what happened during the trial.

Buell said there was no DNA evidence preserved from his cases that could be tested to clear him. He said circumstantial evidence using paint spots, hairs and carpet fibers was retested so many times it would not help him today. "We have to work with what's in the record,'' Kelleher said. "The state of the law now is, with some exceptions, if you didn't do it right when you had the chance, the door is slammed.'' "Clearly, there were examples of stuff being withheld from his attorneys,'' Kelleher said, including the well-publicized fact that police statements from three key witnesses were taken under hypnosis. Wiest allowed the testimony despite the revelation.

Though never charged, Buell also was linked to the Oct. 29, 1981, abduction and murder of Tina Marie Harmon, 12, of Creston as she walked to the grocery store. Her body was found five days later at an oil well site near Navarre in Stark County. She had been raped and strangled. Two other men were convicted in the Harmon case, but -- based on the suspicion that Buell might be the true killer -- their life sentences were later overturned.

The remains of Deborah Kaye Smith, 10, of Massillon were found Aug. 6, 1983, on the banks of the Tuscarawas River, near Bolivar, about 15 miles from her home. Investigators said in 1984 they had candle wax and other evidence linking Buell to her death, although, again, he was not charged. She was abducted from a street carnival in downtown Massillon on June 15, 1983.

Buell claims that disappearances and murders of young girls in Bay Village, Kettering, Steubenville and western Pennsylvania -- all after Buell was imprisoned -- are similar to the Harmon, Harrison and Smith cases. ``These murders are all connected,'' Buell insists.

Buell's death penalty case is pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where legal arguments are scheduled to be filed throughout the summer. Buell had a close brush with execution in 1996, when at 12:18 a.m. Jan. 25 -- the day of his scheduled electrocution -- the U.S. Supreme Court issued an 11th-hour decision allowing a stay. For two days, Buell had been driven back and forth between his Mansfield cell and the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Krista Lea's parents, George and Shirley Harrison of Marshallville, drove to Lucasville to await the court decision. They did not respond to requests for interviews.

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled, 5-4, that Buell should be allowed to enter his third and final round of appeals. William P. Callis, a retired FBI agent from Mansfield, who actively worked the Harrison and other missing-child cases, remains convinced Buell is a murderer. He dismissed Buell's claim about fly larvae, saying high temperatures could have led to their earlier presence. ``There was a lot of circumstantial evidence that's kind of hard to refute. . . . I never had any reservations whatsoever that law enforcement was looking at the wrong place. Maybe he (Buell) doesn't want to be labeled a killer. It's bad enough being labeled a rapist.''

UPDATE

Jan. 31, 2001 -- Lawyers defending 60-year-old killer Robert A. Buell appealed his death penalty case yesterday to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, marking Buell's third and final round of appeals. Dennis Harrell, senior motions attorney for the federal court, said a decision is not expected soon, particularly since a new execution date has not been set for Buell.

Buell, a former Akron Planning Department worker, was convicted of murdering Krista Lea Harrison on July 17, 1982. Assistant Attorney General Jon W. Oebker reminded the court yesterday that while Krista Lea had 11 years of life, Buell has had 18 years of due process. Buell received a last-minute reprieve from the electric chair in January 1996 with a 5-4 stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. That stay has been in place ever since.

Cleveland lawyer Jeffry F. Kelleher said the U.S. District Court judge who denied Buell's habeas corpus petition should have recused himself. ``We're saying, among other things, that the case should go back to the district to rule on merits,'' Kelleher said. ``This is not a time for new things. There are procedural issues, some substantive issues.'' Kelleher said the 6th Circuit can do several things, including reverse U.S. District Court Judge Paul R. Matia and grant the petition -- or send the case back to Matia.

As a key sponsor of Ohio's capital punishment law when he was in the General Assembly, Matia should never have heard Buell's case, according to Kelleher. ``There's an appearance of impropriety,'' he said. Either side also can appeal a 6th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

UPDATE

July 13, 2002 -- If she had lived, she would be 31 now -- hard to imagine for those who remember her as the tawny-haired girl playing in the late midsummer afternoon. That Saturday in 1982, 11-year-old Krista Lea Harrison was snatched away from the park across the street from her parents' home in Marshallville. A dark-haired stranger drove off with her in a purple or brown van with teardrop or bubble-shaped windows.

Her strangled body, obscured by knee-high weeds, was found six days later in an abandoned wooden garage off a dirt road that meandered past the cornfields, dense woods and turtle ponds of northwestern Holmes County. Now, fully two decades later, Robert A. Buell, the former Akron city worker convicted of abducting, raping and killing her, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Sept. 25, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. The Ohio Supreme Court set the date Thursday.

Buell has always said he is innocent. In an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal in 2000, he said he was at work when Krista was abducted and that a serial rapist remains on the loose. ``We talked to him yesterday and he was quite calm about it,'' Buell's appointed attorney Jeffry F. Kelleher said Friday.

For those impatient with the delays -- a process that has taken nearly twice as many years as Krista was alive -- it's about time. Her 1982 slaying shattered the fiction of rural security and fomented a fretful summer for the parents of youngsters in Northeast Ohio.

Krista graduated from Marshallville Elementary School in June 1982, one month before her death. She was only 100 yards from her home when she was abducted. Six days later, after the FBI, police, Ohio National Guardsmen and an army of volunteers combed the area around Marshallville on the ground and from the air, her body was found.

Buell was identified as the prime suspect immediately after he was arrested in October 1982 for abducting a Columbiana County woman at gunpoint, handcuffing her to his bed in Summit County's Franklin Township and raping her. He pleaded no contest to that rape, as well as to kidnapping and raping a Chester, W.Va., woman and holding her captive at his home for three days. He was sentenced to 121 years in prison for those crimes.

In Krista's case, jurors found the evidence against him compelling. For example, six days before Krista's abduction, Buell picked up custom-made van seats at Sears. Packaging matching the type used for the seats had been used to dispose of the body. A neighbor testified that the windows in Buell's van were replaced with square ones a day or two after the description of the kidnapper's van began to dominate local news. Carpet fibers found on the girl's body -- a rare orange shade -- matched fibers found in Buell's van and home. His van matched one described by witnesses who saw Krista disappear -- brown or purple with teardrop or bubble-shaped windows.

Buell has had execution dates set before, and in January 1996 was even taken to the death house. He ate his last meal and spent the evening in a 10-by-6-foot holding cell at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville. Then at 12:18 a.m., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that he should be allowed to enter his third and final round of appeals instead.

The last-minute reprieve was somewhat expected, but setting an execution date sent a message that the attorney general's office was tired of delays. Buell's attorneys still hope they can spare Buell's life, but they know they can't just revisit old objections. They will have to bring something new to the court that would warrant a hearing.

State prosecutors are ready to answer any last-minute motions. ``We know they're coming, we just don't know what those motions are yet,'' said Joe Case, spokesman for the Ohio attorney general. Three of the four men put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999 saw their sentencing dates postponed by such motions. However, the last man executed in Ohio, Alton Coleman, was killed April 26 on schedule.

 
 

Robert A. Buell v. Betty Mitchell Warden

(12/04/01 6th Circuit Court of Appeals)

Buell's habeas petition relates to his 1984 conviction and death sentence for the sexual assault and murder of eleven-year-old Krista Lee Harrison. On Saturday, July 17, 1982, Krista and a schoolmate were collecting aluminum cans in a ballpark across the street from Krista's home in Marshallville, Ohio. Krista was kidnapped from the park that day. Six days later, Krista was found dead in a remote area of Holmes County, Ohio.

An autopsy revealed that she had been sexually assaulted by the thrusting of a rigid object against the inlet of her vagina and then strangled to death. The remainder of the factual findings of the Ohio Supreme Court related to this case can be found in State v. Buell, 489 N.E.2d 795, 798-99 (Ohio 1986).

Buell was indicted on November 15, 1983. He received a jury trial. On April 4, 1984, the jury found Buell guilty of aggravated murder and the specification charging Buell as the principal offender who committed the murder of Krista Lee Harrison while kidnapping or fleeing immediately after kidnapping her.

The trial court agreed with the jury's recommendation that a death sentence be imposed and on April 11, 1984, the trial court sentenced Buell to death. Buell subsequently appealed to the Ohio Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court. Both appeals were denied. On October 19, 1987, Buell filed a post-conviction petition in the Ohio trial court, which was denied. The petition was appealed to the Ohio Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court, both of which denied the petition.

On September 16, 1992, Buell filed a habeas petition in federal district court. The district court granted a stay of execution to allow the Ohio Court of Appeals to consider Buell's Application for Delayed Reconsideration relating to Buell's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. This claim was denied by the Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court.

On April 1, 1996, Buell filed a second habeas petition in federal district court, raising thirty-three grounds for relief. The petition was denied on July 22, 1999.

* * * *

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED and Buell's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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