Woman accused of helping husband kill ex

November 24, 2020

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio (Court TV) – UPDATE: After more than 14 hours of deliberations, a jury of 12 finds Erica Stefanko guilty of aggravated murder. Sentencing is scheduled for January 11, 2021.

 

ORIGINAL STORY:
SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio (Court TV) –  An Ohio woman is facing life in prison for the 2012 murder of a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver.

Erica Stefanko, formally Erica Lyon, is accused in the death of 25-year-old Ashley Biggs. At the time of the killing, the victim shared a child with Stefanko’s then-husband, Chad Cobb. Cobb is serving a life sentence following his conviction in the death of Biggs. But even then, authorities maintained they were investigating who may have helped him.

New Franklin Police say Biggs was lured to her death in June 2012 by a fake pizza delivery call allegedly placed by Stefanko. When Biggs arrived at the delivery address, a closed business, she was attacked by Cobb and strangled with a four-foot-long zip tie. Her body was found in the backseat of her car abandoned in a cornfield.

Investigators believe the murder was the result of an ongoing child custody dispute between Cobb and Biggs, a U.S. Army veteran.

Stefanko is facing multiple charges, including aggravated murder and gross abuse of a corpse. Jury selections begin Nov. 13, 2020. Cobb is expected to testify against his ex-wife.

DAY 1:
  • Jury has virtual visit to the crime scene
  • Both sides deliver opening statements
  • The victim’s girlfriend, Brittany Dunson, gives emotional testimony
DAY 2:
  • Chad Cobb testifies against his ex-wife from Richland Correctional Institute, where he is serving a life sentence for Biggs’ murder
  • The jury hears a recorded conversation between the defendant and her former mother-in-law, Cindee Cobb
  • Cindee Cobb says the defendant was abusive toward Cobb and Biggs’ daughter, and once fed her food contaminated with “fecal matter”
  • The defendant clutches a photo of her children as she listens to testimony
DAY 3:
  • Chad Cobb denies killing ex-girlfriend Ashley Biggs or plotting with the defendant to kill Biggs, despite pleading guilty to 10 counts in 2013 for Biggs’ death, including aggravated murder
  • The 15-year-old daughter of Chad Cobb and Ashley Biggs takes the stand, recalls hearing Stefanko place a pizza delivery order using a false name
  • Chad Cobb’s friend and supporter Mary Brinkman describes 2012 dinner conversation in which Stefanko allegedly said she dropped Cobb off at crime scene, waited for him, then accompanied him to a cornfield where he left Biggs’ car with her body inside
  • Brinkman says Stefanko admitted to defecating on Biggs’ grave for “all the shit she put us through”
  • Domino’s manager describes taking order for a pepperoni pizza for a woman named Jen to address where Cobb says Biggs was killed
DAY 4:
  • Ashley Biggs’ bruised face is barely recognizable in crime scene photos shown to the jury
  • Photos from search of Cobb-Stefanko home show items used to kill Ashley Biggs
  • Medical examiner says ligature around Biggs’ neck caused fatal injury
  • Forensic scientist testifies that duct tape found on pieces of evidence – including the cable used to strangle Ashley Biggs — matches a roll of duct tape found in a backpack on Chad Cobb’s property
  • Covid-19 scares threaten to derail trial twice in one day
DAY 5:
  • Erica Stefanko changes her mind about testifying Friday afternoon after telling the court before the lunch break – and in pretrial hearings – that she will take the stand
  • The defense rests Friday afternoon after calling one witness, Stefanko’s husband and Chad Cobb’s childhood friend, Mike Stefanko
  • The state rests Friday morning after calling lead case detective Michael Hitchings as its last witness
  • After close of evidence, the judge denies defense motion for judgment of acquittal after asking the state for more argument on aggravated robbery charge
DAY 6:
  • Prosecutors give their final argument urging jurors to focus on the defendant’s own words to find her complicit in the murder of Ashley Biggs.
  • Defense Attorney Kerry O’Brien in his closing attacked the audio recording suggesting it was part of a plot by Chad and his mother to implicate Stefanko in the murder.
  • In the rebuttal, Brian LoPrinzi said Stefanko and Cobb had a plan to kill Biggs all along, because he said they talked about keeping her skull
  • Jurors deliberated for less than 2 hours before asking to be excused for the evening.
  • The jury requested a copy of the jury instructions and a transcript of the call, which was not provided because it is not part of the evidence

Day 7:

  • The jury panel of 6 men and 6 women concluded a second day of deliberations for a total of just over 9 hours – without reaching a verdict.
  • The judge and a member of her staff were seen wheeling in a large white dry erase board into the courtroom after the jurors left. (It’s not clear if jurors requested the board.)
  • Jurors will resume their deliberations at 9:00 AM Wednesday.

Day 8:

The jury has found the Erica Stefanko Guilty of the top count of Aggravated Murder:

  • 15) Aggravated Murder – Guilty
  • 16) Aggravated Murder (Felony) – Not Guilty
  • 17) Murder (with purpose) – Guilty
  • 18) Murder (Felony Murder) – Not Guilty
  • 19) Kidnapping – Not guilty
  • 20) Agg Robbery –Not guilty
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