3 judges to decide death penalty trial in Warren County

Three judges, rather than a jury, will decide whether a Warren County man will be convicted and possibly sentenced to death for the death of his adoptive sister in September 2017.

On Monday, Judge Donald Oda II cleared up remaining issues leading up to the trial of Christopher Kirby, 38, of South Lebanon.

Oda, along with Judges Joe Kirby and Robert Peeler, will hear the cases made by lawyers for and against Kirby.

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John Kaspar, one of the lawyers representing Kirby, said they decided to make their case to the judges, rather than a jury, after reviewing responses of potential jurors in the case.

The two-week trial is scheduled to begin next Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

During Monday’s hearing, Kirby’s other lawyer, Timothy McKenna, said prosecutors had turned down an offer for Kirby to plead guilty to all charges and be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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

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Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold said the offer was rejected for several reasons, but he did not elaborate.

Kirby is accused of murdering Deborah Power and badly beating her husband, Ronnie Power, at the home they shared with Kirby, his wife and children in South Lebanon.

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.

It was unclear whether she will testify in her husband’s trial.

Authorities were summoned by a 911 call from an 8-year-old boy. During a hearing Monday, Oda indicated a young witness was expected to testify.

Deborah Power, 63, of South Lebanon, was found under a blanket and “cold to the touch with blood underneath” by sheriff’s deputies called to 59 W. Broadway, according to a search warrant.

Christopher Kirby was first interviewed at West Chester Hospital, the day after the incident. At the hospital, detectives recovered the victims’ truck and three credit cards allegedly taken from them as the Kirbys tried to raise more money to buy drugs.

His lawyers motioned for his statements to police to be thrown out, citing the likelihood he was feeling the effects of heroin or withdrawal from it when he was questioned.

They also argued that a detective secretly recorded the man’s statements during a “smoke break.”

But Oda rejected the defense motions, ruling the statements were obtained lawfully.

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