After deliberating more than five hours, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury found David Zielinski guilty Thursday of the murder of his estranged wife’s boyfriend.
Zielinski, 34, of 3859 Berkey Southern Rd., was convicted for the death of Michael Jackson, 20, of Toledo, and also found guilty of kidnapping his now ex-wife, Amber Hayes, and of aggravated burglary for climbing through a window at her house that night.
The jury acquitted him of attempting to murder Ms. Hayes, but convicted him of the lesser charge of felonious assault for shooting at Ms. Hayes.
He faces life in prison with parole eligibility after 18 years when sentenced Tuesday morning by Judge Ruth Ann Franks.
"The brutality of this murder will certainly merit a lengthy prison sentences," Lindsay Navarre, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said afterward.
The murder conviction included a gun specification, Ms. Navarre said, so Zielinski will automatically receive a life sentence, with other counts potentially being sentenced consecutively on top of that.
"I'm disappointed that he did not get aggravated murder, but I'm satisfied that he will not be on the streets and that he will go to prison and spend a life term," said Pamela Jackson, the victim's mother.
The ordeal has been horrible for the family, she added. "Micheal was my caregiver. Micheal was my life. I have an eight-year old daughter. Half my life is gone."
Testifying in his own defense Wednesday, Zielinski had admitted he took a gun and a knife to Ms. Hayes’ West Central Avenue home about 2:30 a.m. July 14, but insisted he didn’t plan to kill anyone. He said he merely wanted to get Mr. Jackson out of the house, but that the confrontation turned deadly after Mr. Jackson cut him in the leg.
An autopsy found Mr. Jackson was shot six times and stabbed twice. Zielinski admitted he also pistol-whipped Mr. Jackson after returning to the bedroom where the shooting occurred to retrieve his knife.
After the violent confrontation, Zielinski made Ms. Hayes drive him to his pickup truck, parked two blocks away, while threatening her at gunpoint. When she pulled up behind the truck, he honked her car’s horn, but when a young man who had accompanied him on the trip from Swanton that night did not emerge, Zielinski got out of the car and approached the truck.
Ms. Hayes said at that point, she drove off, and Zielinski fired eight rounds toward her fleeing vehicle as she called 911.
Throughout the four-day trial, prosecutors portrayed Zielinski as a violently jealous husband who may not have wanted to stay married to Ms. Hayes, but was enraged that another man had stepped in to take his place.
Lindsay Navarre, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told jurors in her closing argument that with such abundant evidence in the case, they could find Zielinski guilty beyond all doubt, rather than simply beyond a reasonable doubt as required.
Science – including DNA evidence and autopsy results – backed up several key witnesses' testimony, Ian English, an assistant prosecutor, told the jury.
Defense attorney Mark Geudtner said in his closing argument that his client certainly was guilty of some criminal offenses, but not the ones he was charged with. Zielinski shot Mr. Jackson, he said, but not “purposely” or “with prior calculation or design” as the aggravated murder statute requires.
“He did not go to 1605 West Central that evening for the purpose of or intending to kill Michael Jackson,” Mr. Geudtner said. “He went there to reclaim his wife and drive her boyfriend, if he found him there, out of their home. Yes, he took a knife and a gun with him, but he did so hoping he would not have to use them.”
Mr. Guedtner also contended Zielinski was not attempting to kill Ms. Hayes when he fired at her, although he conceded the jury could find Zielinski guilty of felonious assault for shooting at her. He also argued Zielinski could not burglarize a home he had lived in with his wife.
Ms. Navarre said Zeilinski showed Ms. Hayes what “’til death do us part” meant on the night of July 13 and early morning of July 14.
“Til death do us part,” Ms. Navarre said. “David Zielinski took those words quite literally when he married Amber Hayes, so literally in fact he repeated them to her the night he brutally murdered her boyfriend and tried to take her life.”
By Marlene Harris-Taylor and Jennifer Feehan - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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