A new lawyer has been appointed to help defend a prison inmate facing the death penalty for strangling his cellmate in their cell at the Lebanon Correctional Institution.
Last week, Judge Donald Oda II appointed Ryan DeBra as co-counsel for Jack Welninski, 33.
Welninski is accused of murdering cellmate Kevin Nill “because it worked for” Casey Pigge, an inmate transferred after murdering an inmate at the prison, according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell. Nill, 40, was a Piqua man serving a short prison sentence for domestic violence.
DeBra replaces Tamara Sack as co-counsel to John Kaspar.
“The Defendant has communicated to Lead Counsel that he does not trust me and does not want me to represent him,” Sack said in a motion filed on March 29 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
Sack was appointed on Oct. 19 and has participated in hearings and filings since then.
“It is therefore not possible for me to remain on as Co-Counsel, as I cannot carry out my responsibilities in this Capital case due to the irreconcilable bias and mistrust the Defendant has for me,” Sack added in her motion to withdraw from the case.
Sack could not be reached for comment.
It was unclear how much this would delay Welninski’s trial. He is now held, along with Pigge, at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the state’s prison for the most dangerous inmates.
Welninski was serving a 69-year prison sentence after being convicted in Wood County for the 2015 attempted murder of an Oregon, Ohio, police officer.
Nill was serving an 18-month sentence for attempted domestic violence.
On Oct. 15, Welninski was indicted for aggravated murder, along with two capital specifications, and a repeat violent offender specification by a Warren County grand jury.
Welninski is accused of murdering Nill on April 23 at the prison west of Lebanon in Turtlecreek Twp.
Nill was found in his cell, a rope around his neck, and pronounced dead at Atrium Medical Center, according to Doyle Burke, chief investigator for the Warren County Coroner’s Office.
“The two had been cellmates for less than an hour before Nill was discovered deceased in the cell,” according to the release.
Pigge is one of Ohio’s most notorious prisoners.
In January 2017, he pleaded guilty to murdering cellmate Luther Wade of Springfield at Lebanon Correctional on Feb. 23, 2016.
He has since pleaded to strangling another inmate, David Johnson, on Feb. 1, 2017, as they rode on a prison bus.
Pigge was moved to the state’s super max facility in Youngstown after he and another inmate were suspected in a brutal attack on Corrections Officer Matthew Mathias.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.