Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler called it an "outrage" that several intruders broke down the door of the mobile home of rural Greenwich couple Brandon Taft and April Spain and assaulted Taft.
The prosecutor accused Jeremy Holmberg, 27, of 2714 Center St., New London, of masterminding the violent March 18 home invasion. A jury started deliberating late Thursday afternoon on the charges of felonious assault, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, robbery and aggravated robbery.
"Nobody has the right to break in, hog tie your (fiance) and threaten your son," Leffler said in his closing argument. "A man's home is his castle."
Leffler said that is an "emotional argument," but he stressed to the jurors that the evidence incriminates Holmberg.
Two witnesses testified Tuesday they saw Holmberg with two shirts, labeled "police" and "sheriff," before the home invasion. Taft told the court the masked men who forced their way into his home March 18 were wearing similar shirts.
"The shirts match. That's a powerful piece of evidence," Leffler said Thursday.
Holmberg's defense attorney, Timothy Dempsey, said the person who assaulted Taft likely did so with his fists, but there were no injuries on his client's fists when he was arrested. Leffler said Holmberg's cousin, Eric Cover, had "busted up hands" during his arrest.
"Jeremy Holmberg is the leader of this," Leffler added. "He is the mastermind of it."
Dempsey also argued a state forensic scientist concluded that none of the DNA from two rolls of duct tape and the mask left at Tate's home matched Holmberg.
"The real evidence is the DNA," Dempsey told the jury. "The DNA points to others, not Jeremy Holmberg."
Huron County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Dane Howard shared his theory about the DNA during a break in the proceedings Thursday.
"It's very likely the suspects wore gloves, so there was no DNA transferred (and no latent fingerprints)," he said.
Darin Randleman, of Norwalk, an acquaintance of Holmberg's, said he saw Holmberg driving a black TransAm he borrowed from another friend before the home invasion. The owner, Mike Brown, testified he let Holmberg borrow the car after a St. Patrick's Day party "to drop off a lady friend he had with him." Brown said he had to track the car down through Holmberg's friends and it had 200 to 500 miles on in after Holmberg used it.
Leffler said there was enough mileage on the TransAm that Holmberg could have driven to Galion where he reportedly gave jewelry stolen from Spain to two teenage girls and take his suspected accomplice, his cousin Anthony Balducci, to his Cleveland home.
Taft, one of the victims, was called back to the stand Wednesday. He remembered hearing "a real loud car go by" his home about 20 minutes before the home invasion. Brown, the sports car owner, testified he installed a special muffler to increase the sound of the engine, a sound he said he likes.
Leffler accused Holmberg of approaching several friends about committing a robbery when he visited the New London area during a "home leave" from a halfway house. Three witnesses testified Holmberg mentioned wanting to do a "lick," a street term for a robbery.
Tim Tucker of New London, a personnel auditor, said Holmberg asked him before the home invasion if he had any side jobs available.
"He said he had a lick. He said he needed to do one to see his brother (in Florida)," Tucker said.
Two Galion girls, 14 and 15, said Holmberg gave them jewelry and a purse which Spain testified was hers when he and Cover stayed at their home for about a week after the home invasion. Leffler said the law allows one to infer someone is "the thief" if the person had possession of stolen property "shortly after" the offense.
Leffler admitted he "would have loved" for the DNA to match Holmberg, not just Balducci and the victims, but insisted all the other evidence points to Holmberg.
"He set in motion this horrible crime," the prosecutor said.