Parole board denies mercy for condemned Ohio killer of 2

Raymond Tibbetts is scheduled for execution in April. He was convicted of killing Fred Hicks at Hicks' Cincinnati home in 1997. (Photo: Ohio Dept. of Corrections)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state’s parole board has rejected a plea for mercy by a condemned inmate who killed his wife and the man who had let the couple live in his home.

Raymond Tibbetts was sentenced to die for stabbing Fred Hicks to death at Hicks’ Cincinnati home in 1997. Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts’ crack cocaine habit.

The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

Tibbetts is not deserving of clemency in part because Hicks’ killing was “particularly senseless and gratuitous,” the board said in an 11-1 decision released Friday. The board also said that the psychological link that Tibbetts’ current attorneys allege exists between his traumatic childhood and the murders is “belied by the fact that Tibbetts was largely able to refrain from violence for many years preceding the murders.”

“We are disappointed that more members of the board were not persuaded by the impact of Ray’s traumatic upbringing on his development,” Jacob Cairns, a lawyer for Tibbetts, said in an email Friday.

However, Cairns said, they remain optimistic that Republican Gov. John Kasich “will spare Ray’s life in recognition that his jury never heard the significant evidence that demonstrates he is not among the worst of the worst.”

One board member believed that life without parole was warranted because Tibbetts’ circumstances from the day he was born presented a “recipe for a disaster,” according to the report. The board member also noted that Tibbetts’ requests for help with mental health and substance abuse issues were routinely met with inadequate responses from social service agencies and other professionals.

Tibbetts is scheduled for execution July 26. Kasich has the final say.

The impact of Tibbetts’ traumatic and chaotic childhood was on trial before the parole board during a January hearing.

Tibbetts, 59, grew up with an emotionally distant mother and an absentee father whose few appearances were usually accompanied by drunken and violent rages, according to his attorneys. An older sister, then about 8, often cared for Tibbetts as a baby.

Tibbetts and his siblings later spent time with abusive foster parents and then cycled in and out of state custody and the juvenile justice system, his attorneys said.

“Based on the extreme level of physical and emotional abuse, abandonment, and neglect he endured, it is not surprising that Ray Tibbetts’ life spiraled downward, and resulted in a very negative outcome,” his attorneys wrote in a Jan. 10 filing with the board.

Hamilton County prosecutors argue that what Tibbetts went through doesn’t outweigh his crimes. That included stabbing Crawford after he’d already beaten her to death, then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a “sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived,” they said.

Prosecutors note that Tibbetts told the parole board that he doesn’t deserve clemency and believes he had a fair trial.

“In nearly every case this board reviews, inmates assert that their poor childhoods, drugs, or some other reason mitigate their actions,” Ron Springman, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the board in a Jan. 12 filing. “The mitigation in this case does not overcome the brutality of these murders.”

Tibbets was originally scheduled to die next month. Kasich pushed back his execution because of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s new three-drug lethal injection method. The state has said it’s confident it will win that case, currently before a Cincinnati federal appeals court.

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