Rape suspect obtains new attorney, trial date

Cary Ashby • Aug 22, 2014 at 1:07 PM

A Willard rape suspect has a different defense attorney -- and a new trial date.

Howard R. Zerkle, 80, of 151 Crestwood Drive, told Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim his family is helping pay for his new attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby, who appeared for Tuesday's hearing.

Zerkle waived his right to a speedy trial and the court rescheduled his trial date for Oct. 28. Conway said since there have been a couple delays, he wants to make sure the case goes to trial or attorneys present a plea deal by the trial date.

Huron County Public Defender David Longo also was in court Tuesday. He said when Zerkle was in jail he submitted an affidavit of indigency and at the time, the defendant didn't disclose any significant assets or income.

"He has made (a) significant bond. ... If he has the means to obtain counsel, he doesn't need me," Longo said.

Zerkle posted a $150,000 bond May 28.

The public defender released a large stack of evidence to Oglesby during the hearing. The evidence included a witness list, copies of text messages and discs.

"We will be filing for a bill of particulars," Oglesby said.

Zerkle is charged with one count each of kidnapping, rape and sexual battery.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler has said he expects there to be extensive testimony about Zerkle's state of mind at the time of the suspected Jan. 31 incident, so the trial could last three to four days. Assistant Prosecutor Daivia Kasper represented the state during Tuesday's hearing.

The Willard Police Department arrested Zerkle on a secret indictment without incident at his home April 6. A grand jury issues secret indictments when authorities suspect the defendant may flee the area.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisted police with the investigation. Detective Jeremy Draper has said the case involves a first-time meeting between Zerkle and his accuser, so authorities "couldn't establish how they know each other."

The victim, an 18-year-old mentally impaired woman, went to MedCentral Health System in Mansfield the night of Jan. 31. She was treated and released.

In early February, the victim's father began picketing outside the Willard police station with a sign and expressed his belief that authorities weren't taking his daughter's suspected attacker off the streets.

Zerkle reportedly got the teenager's name from a Plymouth High School student and followed the victim's school bus to her house. When she got off, Zerkle allegedly lured her to him and said he would take her to his house, out to eat and to play games, the father earlier told the Reflector. The victim's brother tried to stop the man's car after she got in, but it was too late.

The father said his daughter, who is friendly and likes and trusts everybody, probably thought Zerkle was a friend.

Police were called after the victim got scared at the stranger's home and texted her mother.

"They found my daughter's blood in his bed," the father said.

Investigators also recovered two used condoms and blood on a towel from Zerkle's apartment.

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