A Summit County grand jury is expected to meet Friday to review the state’s evidence against four suspects arrested last week in the death of 17-month-old Patrick Lerch at a suspected Akron meth house.
Prosecutors said an indictment in the homicide case could be issued early next week.
The news about the pending grand jury proceedings emerged Tuesday afternoon when the four suspects, including the deceased child’s mother, 20-year-old Heather Lerch, made their first public appearances before Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker on an earlier indictment for multiple drug felonies.
The cause of Patrick’s death, according to autopsy findings by the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, was methamphetamine poisoning during what was described by the agency in a news release as a “period of abuse and neglect.”
The death was ruled last week as a homicide, leading to the arrests of Heather Lerch and her boyfriend’s brother, Ronald Legg, 22, on murder and felony child endangering charges in connection with Patrick’s death.
Lerch’s boyfriend, Randy Legg, 19, and an acquaintance, Allen Kostra, 24, were charged with voluntary manslaughter.
All four remain in custody at the county jail, unable to make bond.
Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Peacock, who will handle the government’s case against the four defendants, told Parker about the grand jury schedule at the outset of Tuesday’s brief court hearing on the drug case.
Parker then set the next hearing for April 24, at which time Lerch and the others will begin pretrial proceedings on both cases.
They were led out of the courthouse together by sheriff’s deputies after Tuesday’s hearing adjourned.
As they waited in line for the elevator in the second-floor courthouse rotunda, with their arms and legs in shackles, Lerch began laughing after exchanging a few words with Ronald Legg, who was at the front of the line.
All of the lawyers for the four defendants refrained from commenting on any details about the case in open court, telling the judge they have not yet received any police or prosecution investigative records.
Peacock said it will be “a number of weeks” before those records are assembled for the defense.
On the night of Feb. 26, Akron police and paramedics responded to a 911 call from a home on St. Leger Avenue in the Goodyear Heights neighborhood.
Police Lt. Rick Edwards, the department’s spokesman, said Patrick was found unresponsive in his crib at the two-story home. He was pronounced dead later that night at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Edwards said responding officers found a working meth lab in the basement during their crime scene investigation.
Lerch had been living there with her son, her boyfriend, his brother and Kostra since Feb. 13.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.