A prison inmate facing the death penalty for strangling his cellmate with a bandage used to immobilize his broken arm joked about concealing the killing to get the alleged murder victim’s next meal, according to testimony Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
“He made some light jokes,” nurse Anthony Endsley said during a hearing in anticipation of Welninski’s November trial. “It was a shocking conversation for me.”
Jack Welninski, 33, is accused of killing cellmate Kevin Nill, 40, of Piqua, less than an hour after they were put together in a cell in at Lebanon Correctional Institution on April 23.
Nill was serving an 18-month sentence for attempted domestic violence involving an adult family member, but Welninski told investigators he decided to kill Nill after being told he was a child molester.
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.
Welninski, who had been on suicide watch in a one-person cell, chose to be placed in Nill’s cell, a request approved by a prison officer and the psychologist examining him, Trooper Laura Harvey confirmed under questioning by lawyer John Kaspar.
Harvey said she could not “justify” why Welninski was put in the cell with Nill.
Endsley also testified that Welninski ‘s request for another bandage for his broken right arm was declined, since he told investigators he used the first one to strangle Nill.
Welninski also told investigators he killed Nill to get transferred from the prison to escape beatings by guards, according to interviews played during the hearing.
“Oh my God, I want to get out of here,” he said.
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.
After Welninski’s indictment, Warren County prosecutors said Welninski said he killed Nill “because it worked for” Casey Pigge, an inmate transferred after murdering an inmate at the prison,
Welninski was transferred to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, where Pigge is also being held.
Under questioning Wednesday, Harvey confirmed Welninski’s allegations against a guard were investigated, although Kaspar later said Welninski declined to bring charges.
In recorded statements, Welninski told investigators that he was beaten in retribution for throwing urine on a guard and claimed multiple beatings by guards.
Welninski was interviewed twice on the day of the Nill’s killing by Harvey, the second time after she realized Welninski was apparently able to strangle Nill, although his broken arm prompted him to have her sign documents for him.
Welninski said he was able to overcome the pain to strangle Nill.
“That whole thing was nothing more than a means to an end,” Welninski said in the second of Harvey’s two recorded interviews played during Wednesday’s hearing.
In response to a question from Kaspar, Harvey also confirmed Welninski told her he wanted the death penalty.
The hearing began with Judge Donald Oda II explaining to Welninski a telephone conference held with lawyers in the case. Welninski has fired one of his appointed lawyers and was considering replacing the others and representing himself.
Oda ordered a private investigator, who also quit the case, to be fully paid, over a request by Welninski she be “docked a couple bucks.”
Welninski withdrew his request to represent himself at the end if the hearing, but he and his lawyers are still determining whether he will be tried before a jury or a three-judge panel.
The trial is to begin on Nov. 4.
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