Man accused of killing Warren County cellmate wants plea change

Joel Drain, one of two Ohio prison inmates now facing the death penalty in connection with the killing of his cellmate, wants to plead no contest to the capital murder charge against him.

Drain asks Judge Donald Oda II to accept his plea — against the advice of his lawyers, John Kaspar and Richard Wendel II — in a letter to the court.

In response to Drain’s letter, Oda scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19.

“Against the suggestion/advice of Mr. Kaspar and Mr. Wendel, who are appointed to represent me in my defense, I would like to ask this court to allow me to plea no contest in open court,” Drain said in the letter from January.

In the letter, Drain also asked Oda to waive the mitigation phase, during which his lawyers would bring evidence to prevent a death sentence from being ordered.

“We can move forward accordingly with the three-judge panel,” Drain added in a letter from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

Drain can waive his right to a trial by jury and be tried by a panel of judges.

RELATED: Warren County prosecutor: Execute prison murderers before they kill again

Following the letter and Oda’s scheduling of the hearing, Kaspar and Wendel have filed motions suggesting Drain is incompetent to stand trial, requesting a hearing on this issue and asking for a copy of Drain’s medical records for use in the hearing.

Drain, 38, is serving 30 years to life for aggravated murder, felonious assault and theft in Hancock County. He beat and stabbed to death a man who called police to report Drain had stabbed his father, according to a bill of particulars filed in the case.

In the other inmate death penalty case pending in Warren County, Jack Welninski, 34, is already serving a sentence scheduled to expire on Nov. 22, 2112, for attempted murder of a police officer, felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm in a liquor establishment in Wood County.

Welninski is accused of murdering cellmate Kevin Nill, 40, a Piqua man serving a short prison sentence for attempted domestic violence. That attack happened on April 23 at Lebanon Correctional Institution.

RELATED: 2 Warren County death penalty case proceed as leaders question executions in Ohio

Nill and Welninski had been cellmates less than an hour before Nill was found with a bandage around his neck that Welninski was supposed to use to mobilize his broken arm. Nill was later pronounced dead at Atrium Medical Center, according to authorities.

Investigators allege that on April 13, Drain murdered prisoner Christopher M. Richardson at Warren Correctional Institution.

The attack left a cell in the prison “a blood-bath,” according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell. Drain allegedly beat Richardson with the motor from a desk fan, stomped on his throat and kicked a pencil into his head.

Richardson was serving a four-year sentence for aggravated arson. He set fire to his mother’s home in January 2017, Delaware County court records show.

Warren County is moving ahead with these capital murder cases as Ohio lawmakers and the governor move further from allowing death-row inmates to be executed.

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