By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
Prosecutors urged Summit County Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio to ponder an essential question in deciding whether 15-year-old Jamal Vaughn should stand trial as an adult in connection with the New Franklin murders.
Court testimony has shown that Vaughn, who was barely 14 when he was arrested as an accomplice in the crime, has an IQ of 70 with severely deficient reading, math and spelling skills.
A court psychologist, however, also testified that although Vaughn was getting treatment for depression over the breakup of his parents, no serious psychological or emotional issue could be documented for additional professional treatment.
And so Teodosio was urged to consider the central question.
“What is it we’re rehabilitating? He has a low IQ,” Summit Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi said in closing arguments Tuesday, “and we’re not going to change that.”
Teodosio took the case under advisement.
Although she decided in August that there is sufficient evidence to transfer the aggravated murder case to adult court, state law demands that an “amenability hearing” must be held first to determine if Vaughn is capable of rehabilitation and treatment in the juvenile system should he be convicted.
The judge gave no timetable for when she would rule. She said she will issue a written decision after considering all of the previous testimony, in addition to Vaugn’s Akron Public School records.
Tests given by school officials in 2011 determined that Vaughn had an IQ of 69.
LoPrinzi had the last word in Tuesday’s closings, and he quoted directly from the wording of Ohio law when describing how Vaughn and the principal defendant, Shawn Eric Ford Jr., 19, allegedly carried out the double homicide.
“They were complicit,” LoPrinzi stressed. “They aided and abetted. They assisted, encouraged and cooperated in these acts, together.”
Prominent area attorney Jeffrey Schobert, 56, and his wife, Margaret Schobert, 59, were beaten to death in the early hours of April 2 inside the master bedroom of their home in the Portage Lakes area of New Franklin.
Their oldest daughter, Jessica Schobert, 24, her father’s brother, Steve, and other family members were present in court when the fatal injuries were spelled out by the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies.
Assistant Summit County Medical Examiner Dorothy Dean said both deaths were caused by multiple, blunt-force blows to the skull.
Jeffrey Schobert also suffered several shallow stab wounds to the right side of the back, none deeper than an eighth of an inch, in addition to defensive wounds to the arms and, apparently, the hands. The stab wounds, Dean said, did not contribute to his death.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Ron Clum said crime scene evidence showed Jeffrey Schobert was probably asleep in bed when he was attacked.
Statements given by Ford and Vaughn to police, Clum said, showed Ford was on one side of the bed, probably using a brick, and Vaughn was on the other side using what was believed to be a steak knife.
Autopsy records showed that a sledgehammer also was found by police in the bed.
Clum said Margaret Schobert was “ambushed” hours later when she returned home from visiting her 18-year-old daughter, Chelsea, in the hospital.
Chelsea Schobert had suffered a concussion after allegedly being attacked by Ford, her former boyfriend, only days before the slaying.
Ford allegedly had a vendetta against the Schoberts, planning and carrying out the murders, testimony showed, after they blocked him from visiting their daughter in the hospital.
Vaughn’s attorney, Adam VanHo, called Ford a “monster” who was the source of provocation for the crime from beginning to end. “If Shawn Ford wasn’t there that night,” VanHo told the court, “none of us would be here in this courtroom and the Schoberts would still be at home.”
Citing juvenile case law on the factors against transfer of a case to adult court, VanHo said that although the crime was the most heinous he has ever seen, all of the evidence showed Vaughn was not the “principal offender.”
Psychological testimony showing that Vaughn was not emotionally, physically or cognitively mature enough for transfer to adult court, VanHo said, is another important legal factor against transfer.
“To put him into that prison system,” VanHo told the court, “is to essentially give him a death sentence.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330 996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.