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Ex-cop convicted of killing pregnant girlfriend

By James Ewinger
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

CANTON, Ohio — A Stark County jury this morning found Bobby Cutts Jr. guilty of aggravated murder for killing his unborn baby and murder for killing his pregnant lover. Cutts could face the death penalty when his is sentenced later this year.

As Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. read the verdicts, Cutts stood stoically. This was in sharp contrast to the sobs and emotional strain that punctuated his four hours of testimony Monday.

                           (AP Photo)
Cutts admitted on the witness stand that he killed Jessie Davis and hid the body in the tall grass of a Summit County park. He characterized the death as an accident flowing from an argument that escalated to a physical confrontation.

The verdict will lead to another hearing to determine whether Cutts should get a death sentence.

The panel of six men and six women deliberated nearly 25 hours over four days before convicting him of aggravated murder, murder, gross abuse of a corpse, aggravated burglary and child endangering.

Because the death penalty is a possibility, the same jurors will reconvene Feb. 25 for what amounts to a second trial. Then they will hear evidence and decide on a penalty, that could be 20 years to life, 25 years to life, 30 years to life, life without parole or death.

If the finding is for death, Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. has the power to set that aside in favor of a life sentence. However, the Ohio Public Defender's office said judges have set aside the death sentence only seven times since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1981.

Brown imposed an all-encompassing gag order on witnesses, attorneys and family members at the beginning of the case last year. Because the case is not over, the response was muted as Brown read the verdicts.

To the community, it means the end of months of waiting — first in June to find Davis' body and now, these last three days, to know the verdict. To reach a resolution. "I just makes me really mad," said Alyssa Violand, 22, who was among the thousands of residents who searched for Davis last summer. "Why do you have to do something like that?"

Violand grew up in Lake Township, where Davis lived. Violand's sister, who also searched, was eight months pregnant. So she feels tied to the case.

"It's a small little community, and stuff like that doesn't happen," said Violand, serving coffee at Muggswicz Coffee Shop, two blocks from the Stark County Courthouse. "So for it to happen right here in River City is really shocking."

BBC Radio played in quiet Muggswicz. But in other downtown eateries this week, TVs blared coverage of the trial, and folks discussed it over lunch.

When the smiling 26-year-old went missing in June, the saga transfixed Northeast Ohio — and for a moment, the entire country.

That photo of her, in the bright maternity smock, plastered newspapers and TV news. Billboards flashed messages about Davis and her unborn daughter, Chloe. Hundreds of strangers attended their wake and funeral. And still, this week, more shared their sympathies in an online guestbook.

"My heart goes out to the family and friends of Jessie Marie Davis," wrote a woman from Broadview Heights. "Though I did not know her personally, this has affected me personally. What a horrible thing for anyone to have to go through."

Copyright 2008 The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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