On June 24, 1998, Lynch lured six-year-old
Mary Jennifer Love into his apartment in Colerain Township, Hamilton
County, Ohio. Lynch began to molest the little girl. To stifle her
screams, he strangled her with his hands for three minutes.
Once she was dead, Lynch took Love to
the bathtub, where he sexually abused her lifeless body. He then placed
her body in a vacuum-cleaner box and removed it from his apartment. He
dumped her body on a wooded lot off of Breezy Acres and covered it with
an old rug. He disposed of her clothing at his employer’s work site.
Love’s parents alerted police that she was missing. A
search of the neighborhood was unsuccessful. Federal Bureau of
Investigation agents canvassed the neighborhood, looking for persons who
had seen Love. The agents interviewed Lynch. His demeanor and responses
aroused their interest in him. He said that he had recently met Love and
had spoken to her, but had no knowledge of her whereabouts.
The next day, Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies
questioned Lynch to obtain additional information. Lynch was cooperative
and went to a police station for more questioning. At the station,
another officer, not involved in the search for Love, noticed Lynch and
informed the investigators that he had previously arrested Lynch for
exposing himself to a child.
Lynch was informed of his Miranda rights and signed a
written waiver. He was interrogated and admitted touching young girls in
his apartment in the past. He conceded that he had touched Love outside
his apartment. Lynch was permitted to leave the station when the
On July 3, 1998, at the request of police, Lynch
returned to the station. After he executed another waiver-of-rights form,
police questioned Lynch about inconsistencies in his previous statements.
During five hours of questioning, he admitted harboring sexual fantasies
about children and offered, “She’s on Breezy Acres.” He led police to
Love’s remains and admitted that he was responsible for killing Love. A
recording of Lynch’s confession was made and was played for the jury in
Lynch was indicted on three separate counts of
aggravated murder and one count each of rape, kidnapping, and gross
abuse of a corpse. Each aggravated-murder count was accompanied by four
death-penalty specifications: that Lynch had purposely killed Love to
escape detection or apprehension after committing the offense of rape;
that after committing or attempting to commit the offense of rape, Lynch
was the principal offender in the commission of the aggravated murder;
that after committing or attempting to commit the offense of kidnapping,
Lynch was the principal offender in the commission of the aggravated
murder; and that Lynch was the principal offender and had purposely
caused the death of Love, a child under thirteen years of age.
Jurors recommended death penalty
Jurors recommended that Ralph L. Lynch receive the
death penalty, saying they did not agree with defense arguments that his
childhood of sexual abuse mitigated the strangling of his 6-year-old
neighbor, Mary Jennifer Love.
A jury of 7 men and 5 women
recommended that Mr. Lynch be sentenced to death on each of the 3 counts
of aggravated murder during the sentencing phase of his capital murder
Carol and Mark Williams, parents of the young girl killed
by Lynch in his apartment on June 24, 1998, said justice was served with
the death sentence. The couple clutched hands as the verdict was read.
"I heard exactly what I've been waiting 14 months to hear,"
said a teary-eyed Mrs. Williams.
She left the courtroom holding a photo
button of her daughter. In the photo, the young girl wears colorful
beads on her braids. "I'm extremely happy." Mrs.
Williams said she plans to attend Lynch's execution and will be carrying
a picture of the girl. "I want him to see her face when he
goes," she said.
Court Upholds Lynch Convictions,
Supreme Court of Ohio - Case Summaries
May 14, 2003
The Ohio Supreme Court today unanimously rejected 22
assignments of legal or procedural error by the trial court and upheld
the convictions and death sentence of Ralph Lynch of Cincinnati for the
1998 kidnapping, rape and murder of 6-year-old Mary Jennifer Love.
Lynch admitted inviting Love into his apartment to
eat popcorn and watch television, engaging in sexual contact with her
and, when she screamed, placing his hands around her neck and squeezing
for three minutes. Lynch alleged that his intent was to stop the girl
from screaming, not to kill her. After several days, the FBI and local
police identified Lynch as a suspect and interrogated him several times
under different circumstances. He ultimately confessed to police that he
had molested and strangled Love, and led them to her body. Lynch was
charged with aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, based
on the aggravating circumstances that the crime was committed during the
commission of other felonies (rape and kidnapping), and that the victim
was a child under 13 years of age. He was found guilty and sentenced to
death in October 1999.
In asking the Supreme Court to reverse the trial
court's verdict and/or set aside his death sentence, Lynch's attorneys
included arguments that a change of venue should have been granted
because of public outrage and heavy local publicity in Cincinnati about
the child murder; that Lynch received ineffective assistance of trial
counsel and that prosecutors made inflammatory and prejudicial
statements about Lynch to the jury during the sentencing phase of the
The court's opinion, written by Chief Justice Thomas
Moyer, rejected these and all other assignments of error. The decision
focused at some length on a claim that the trial court erred in not
granting a defense request that Lynch, who has a reported IQ of 72, be
allowed to be guided by his lawyer using a question-and-answer format
when he made an unsworn statement to the jury during the sentencing
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Moyer noted that,
while "Ohio and several other states permit defendants to present an
unsworn statement to the jury during the penalty phase of a capital
trial, … the majority view does not support a holding that a defendant
has a constitutional right even to make an unsworn statement, let alone
an unsworn statement in a question-and-answer format," Moyer wrote.
He went on to hold that, while the trial court in
Lynch's case did not abuse its discretion in denying the defense's
request, "the trial court would have acted within its discretion by
allowing the defendant to use a question and answer format in making an
Judge William H. Wolff, Jr. of the 2nd
District Court of Appeals sat in place of Justice Deborah L. Cook in the