Phil Trexler

While her husband lie lifeless in their bed, Margaret Schobert was lured to her New Franklin home where Shawn Eric Ford Jr. was waiting with a sledgehammer.

Like her husband, Jeffrey, Mrs. Schobert was bludgeoned to death by Ford, the Akron man who had been dating their teenage daughter.

For Margaret Schobertís death, an outwardly emotional Summit County jury decided Ford should be executed.

The same panel recommended life in prison without parole for the killing of Jeffrey Schobert.

Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker has the final say on Fordís sentencing. No hearing date was set Friday when the jury released its verdict after about six hours of deliberation over two days.

If Parker upholds the death sentence ó and judges generally do ó Ford will be sent to Ohioís death row, where he will be among the youngest inmates.

Ford, 20, buried his head in his lap when Parker read the juryís split verdict. He otherwise showed no emotion while his mother, Kelly Ford, 38, openly wept while seated in the gallery. At least half of the jury, made up of 10 women and two men, also began to weep as the verdicts were read.

Testimony showed that Ford and a 14-year-old friend broke inside the Schobertsí home on April 2, 2013, and attacked Mr. Schobert in his bed. The prominent and popular civil attorney was struck more than a dozen times with a sledgehammer.

Ford then used Mr. Schobertís cellphone to send a series of text messages to Mrs. Schobert in an effort to hasten her return home. She was then attacked as she walked into the bedroom and struck more than a dozen times with the same sledgehammer.

Prosecutors Brian LoPrinzi and Brad Gessner asserted at trial that Ford was angry with the Schoberts for blocking his efforts to visit their daughter, Chelsea, while she was in intensive care at Akron Childrenís Hospital.

Chelsea Schobert, then 17, was nearly killed in an attack Ford initiated during their date about 10 days earlier.

Jurors, some still in tears, declined comment as they filtered out of the courthouse. Their verdict reflects what former juror Marla Lloyd told the Beacon Journal after she was removed from the panel a week ago while the jury was deliberating Fordís guilt.

Lloyd said she and at least one other juror believed Ford may have initially gone to the Schobert home to burglarize the home of the affluent couple. He killed Mr. Schobert, she thought, when his presence surprised Ford and co-defendant Jamall Vaughn, now 15.

Lloyd said in an interview with the Beacon Journal earlier this week that she anticipated a death sentence because the panel was most troubled by the cold calculation and premeditation Ford showed in luring and killing Mrs. Schobert.

Defense attorneys Donald Hicks and Jon Sinn declined comment.

Jessica Schobert, the coupleís daughter, also declined comment, citing a gag order imposed by Parker.

Fordís death sentence will likely be appealed for years to come by a team of publicly funded attorneys and investigators.

His trial defense attorneys have already cited Fordís mental fitness ó he has scored 62 to 80 on various IQ tests ó while asking that the death specification be removed. Parker has so far declined, but he has offered to hold a separate hearing to further explore Fordís mental abilities. No date has been set.

U.S. laws bar death sentences on the mentally disabled and IQ scores similar to Fordís have been used successfully in appeals of capital murder cases. However, IQ scores are not the only consideration. Life skills and communication abilities and other mental capacities are also considered.

Basis for appeal?

In addition to Fordís mental fitness, defense attorneys are likely to appeal Parkerís failure to provide jurors with a copy of a report compiled by a defense psychiatrist who examined Ford in preparation for the sentencing hearing.

Parker and the trial attorneys met early Friday in private ó despite objections by the Beacon Journal ó apparently to discuss the psychiatric report. Parker gave no reason for the closed-door hearing when he ushered Ford, prosecutors, defense attorneys, deputies and a stenographer from the courtroom and into his chambers.

At the time, a Beacon Journal reporter was the only member of the public seated in the gallery.

When the reporter told the judge that the newspaper was objecting to the closed-door hearing, Parker said ďOK,Ē and the door closed.

About 15 minutes later, Parker and the others returned to the courtroom and again went on the record. During the brief session, Parker ruled that a presentencing report and the psychiatristís report on Fordís mental health would not be shown to jurors.

Questions raised

The Beacon Journal has requested a transcript of the closed-door hearing, which is the second decision by Parker that the newspaper has questioned this week.

On Wednesday, courthouse workers ó based on orders from Parker ó placed a black plastic trash bag over a Beacon Journal vending box stationed outside the courthouse. Newspapers in the courthouse cafeteria were also removed.

Parker made the demand when the newspaper published an interview with Lloyd, the juror who was removed during deliberations.

After the newspaper complained, Parker had the bag lifted and a placard was put in the vending box window. The placard was later removed. The jurorís story was not visible in the window box.

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com. He can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PhilTrexler.