Closure deserved in boy’s death

We see a sad irony in the fact that one defendant in the 1985 brutal murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife — the one who was sentenced to serve a life term — died last week in prison, while the other defendant — the one sentenced to be executed more than 30 years ago — still lives in Ohio’s prison system.

Ohio death row inmate Danny Lee Hill, now 51, has been incarcerated with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction since 1986. That’s 32 years of being supported at taxpayers’ expense and 32 years of using publicly funded defense attorneys to appeal and fight his death sentence over and over and over again.

The other defendant, Timothy Combs, died earlier this month while incarcerated at Grafton Correctional Institution in Lorain County. He was 50. He had not been eligible to face the death penalty in his crimes because he was only 17 when the brutal assault and slaying of a 12-year-old boy occurred as he rode his bicycle home after a Boy Scout meeting.

Undoubtedly every person who ever is accused of a crime in America deserves due process and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But we, like most local residents who recall the heinous crime and subsequent trial, are growing tired and frustrated with the never-ending parade of motions and legal maneuvers that continue to stall Hill’s execution — even after his criminal conviction was first pronounced and subsequent appeals have upheld it.

In the days after Combs’ Nov. 9 death, his young victim’s mother, Miriam Fife, said the killer’s death left her no cause to rejoice.

“This is not something that I celebrate,” she said, but then noted, “I will be able to rest in peace that he will not be able to get out and do what was done to Raymond to anyone else.”

Miriam Fife’s words were spoken with the dignity — and profound sadness — that have remained all these years.

Certainly, she now deserves to have that same closure and opportunity to rest in peace with an end to the appeals by her son’s other killer.

Indeed, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and his staff have fought tirelessly for that closure.

Isn’t it time?

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