Warren County man could face death penalty in sister’s killing

The trial of a South Lebanon man who could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering his sister began Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Judges Joe Kirby, Donald Oda II and Robert Peeler, rather than a jury, will decide if Christopher Kirby, 38, should be sentenced to death for allegedly murdering his adoptive sister, Deborah Power, and badly beating her husband, Ronnie Power, at the home they shared with Kirby, his wife and children in South Lebanon.

“This is really a story about drugs,” defense lawyer John Kaspar said during opening statements.

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Kirby is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.

He is alleged to have committed these crimes in September 2017 to fund his and his wife’s heroin habit after Deborah Power changed the password on her bank card.

In April, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kirby, 31, was sentenced to three years on probation for her part in the case and ordered her to enter the Women’s Recovery Center, an outpatient substance abuse program in Xenia.

The trial, which is expected to last into next week, is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.

On Monday morning, Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold said the extended family, all living in the South Lebanon home where the alleged crime occurred, relied on Social Security payments.

“The only source of income for the household was Social Security,” Arnold said in his opening statement.

Arnold said prosecutors would show the three-judge panel that Kirby should be sentenced to death for his crimes.

“While he presented part of the story, it’s not the whole story,” Kaspar told the judges in his opening statement.

Kaspar said the case would also demonstrate the poverty of their conditions and “the vital importance of a $290 check.”

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Prosecutors called the 911 operator who took the initial call from Kirby’s 8-year-old son after his parents had left in the Powers’ truck, allegedly leaving Ronnie Power with a bad head wound and Deborah Power’s body under blankets in a locked room.

A number of deputies were also called to begin to develop the chain of evidence designed to prove Kirby was guilty of the capital crime.

Testimony indicated that at the house, before being taken to the University of Cincinnati Hospital in West Chester, a bleeding Ronnie Power said he had fallen and hit his head.

The Kirbys were found later at the hospital in West Chester.

Testimony indicated they drove there after buying and using heroin in Cincinnati. Ronnie Power was initially treated at this hospital before being taken to another hospital.

The prosecutors also called a video expert to map the Kirbys’ movements after leaving the house, and LCNB bank officials testified to show the bank card number had been changed after Deborah Power visited the bank about her overdrawn account.

Still, Deborah Power had not mounted a formal complaint or filed a police report against her adoptive brother or his wife.

“She was going to address it and I guess get back to me,” Christina Harris, manager of the bank’s South Lebanon branch, said.

The trial is to resume this morning and continue into next week.

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