Nearly a year after being sent to prison after their two boys drowned, a Zanesville couple have had their conviction reversed.
The Ohio 5th District Court of Appeals ruled that Kasey L. Klein, 25, and her husband, Richard H. Klein Jr., 38, were improperly tried together and are entitled to new, separate trials.
Jurors convicted the Kleins of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering after her sons Ayden Cecil, 3, and Anthony Tullius, 2, drowned in the Muskingum River during a camp-out on June 4, 2011.
Mr. and Mrs. Klein were sentenced to 12 years in prison each on Feb. 22 for what a prosecutor described as “a tragedy that didn’t have to happen.”
The testimony of Mrs. Klein and other comments during their trial harmed her husband’s defense by insinuating that Mr. Klein murdered his stepsons, the appeals court ruled on Friday. Neither was charged with murder.
Muskingum County Common Pleas Judge Mark C. Fleegle abused his discretion when he tried the pair together, the court found.
David Graeff, a Westerville lawyer representing Mr. Klein, said the indictments against the couple stand, and he expects their trial lawyers to go to court and ask that they be allowed to post bonds to be freed from custody.
“Mrs. Klein created this defense that my client murdered these two boys. It was completely improper. There wasn’t the slightest hint — and even the police and prosecutors agreed — that he did that,” Graeff said.
The Kleins awoke to find her sons missing, sparking a massive search for the half-brothers. Ayden’s body was pulled from the river about a mile from the campsite, but Anthony’s body never was found.
Prosecutors said the couple were negligent in pitching their tent only 25 feet from the river and failing to supervise the children, who apparently went into the river while the adults slept at Muskingum River State Park at Ellis Dam.
The Muskingum County prosecutor’s office did not respond yesterday to a request for comment on whether the Kleins will be brought to trial again.
Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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