Judges spare Warren County man from death penalty in murder of sister

A Warren County man was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday for murdering his sister and attempting to murder her husband in a robbery committed to get money to buy heroin.

Judges Joseph Kirby, Donald Oda II and Robert Peeler came to the unanimous verdict after less than an hour of deliberation.

Christopher G. Kirby, 38, of South Lebanon, was the final witness in the trial, begun last week in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

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Kirby apologized to his wife, children and other relatives, some of whom lived in the home in South Lebanon where the crimes resulting in the capital murder case were committed on Sept. 15, 2017.

“I would give anything to take that night back,” he said, while offering a reason for sparing his life. “I’d like to see my children grow.”

Last week, the three-judge panel found Kirby guilty of murdering his adoptive sister Deborah Power, 63, and attempting to murder her husband, Ronnie Power, 66, at the home the Kirbys and Powers shared with other family in South Lebanon.

Kirby was found guilty of beating both Powers with a baseball bat after Deborah Power told him he and his wife would have to move out of the house. Evidence showed Deborah Power told the Kirbys to move out after Kirby overdrew their bank account to buy heroin for he and his wife.

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On Monday, Kirby’s lawyers called two psychologists, his aunt and a friend during the mitigation phase of the trial.

The psychologists testified that Kirby suffered from mental illness, but prosecutors attacked their testimony.

His aunt, Loraine Anderson, remembered Kirby as a young boy playing with Legos and toy cars.

“There’s so much death already in our family,” she said in asking Kirby instead be sentenced to life without parole.

His friend, Gabe Ely, recalled their friendship as boys and young men and how Kirby was sent to the Madison Correctional Institution for about 18 months for non-support in Butler County. This stemmed from a previous marriage.

In April, his second wife, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kirby, 31, was sentenced to three years on probation for receiving stolen property and misuse of credit cards in the case. She was also ordered to enter outpatient recovery.

Last Wednesday, the prosecution and defense rested after the testimony of Detective Jay Henning.

“This is your opportunity, last opportunity, to tell us what happened,” Henning told Kirby as he and another detective questioned him and his wife separately at the sheriff’s office.

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In a video played in court, Kirby told detectives he beat Deborah and Ronnie Power with a bat after being told he and his wife would have to leave after he overdrew the family’s bank account.

Kirby also admitted he and his wife traded a TV he took after the assaults for heroin.

He said the violence came about after his expectations that he would be able to reimburse the Powers, who supported the household with Social Security payments, fell apart.

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Henning said he was investigating a felonious assault report involving the beating of Ronnie Power when they found Deborah Power’s body in a locked room at the house.

“Does Ohio have the death penalty? Can I ask for it?” Kirby asked after being served with murder, attempted murder and robbery charges by the detectives.

The judges ruled the prosecutors failed to prove the crime outweighed mitigating factors brought up by the defense, Kirby’s cooperation in the investigation and willingness to give up his right to a jury trial.

The judges also sentenced Kirby to 11 years in the attempted aggravated murder of Ronnie Power.

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