CANTON, Ohio – A former police officer who tearfully told jurors he accidentally killed his pregnant lover was convicted Friday of murdering her and their unborn child.
Bobby Cutts Jr. could face the death penalty. He had claimed he accidentally killed Jessie Davis by putting an elbow to her throat, then panicked.
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Cutts, 30, was convicted of aggravated murder in the death of the nearly full-term female fetus, which carries the possible death penalty. Jurors will return later this month to weigh a sentencing recommendation.
The jury found him not guilty of aggravated murder in Davis' death, a count that includes intent to kill with prior calculation. But they convicted him of a lesser charge of murder in her death.
Defense attorneys asked Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. to declare a mistrial because the differing verdicts on the two counts.
Brown rejected the request, saying the allegations involved separate individuals: Davis and the fetus.
Jurors reached their decision on their fourth day of deliberations. Cutts sat with his hands on his lap and held his head erect without emotion as the verdicts were read.
Prosecutors told the jury that Cutts killed Davis, 26, last June at her Lake Township home to get out of child support payments for a fourth child.
The couple's 2 1/2-year-old son, Blake, who was found home alone, gave investigators their first clues to his mother's disappearance when he said, "Mommy's crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug," and, later, "Daddy's mad."
For more than a week, Cutts, then an officer on the Canton police force, denied knowledge of her whereabouts as thousands searched in the area. He finally led authorities to the body, wrapped in a comforter and dumped in a park about 20 miles from her home.
Cutts testified for four hours Monday, saying tearfully that he accidentally killed Davis as he was trying to leave her house and she didn't want him to go. He said he then panicked.
Cutts also was convicted of abuse of a corpse, burglary and child endangering.
His attorneys said his actions in dumping the body and leaving the little boy alone didn't prove he intended to kill Davis.
"Does that cause you to feel that he's a liar and a cheat and he's going to lie about everything else?" defense attorney Fernando Mack asked during his closing argument Tuesday. "None of that will tell you whether aggravated murder was committed on the morning of June 14th."
Defense attorneys also stressed that there was no forensic evidence linking Cutts to the death and that a medical examiner couldn't determine how Davis died because of decomposition from nine days of exposure in the summer heat.
But prosecutor Dennis Barr told the jury that Cutts' story made no sense and said a police officer wouldn't hide a body unless he was covering up a criminal act. He noted Cutts' testimony that he sprayed down his truck after getting rid of Davis' body because of bugs on his windshield.
"Is that reasonable?" Barr asked. "Or is it more reasonable to think that he stopped and washed that truck to get rid of trace evidence?"
The prosecution's key witness, Cutts' longtime friend Myisha Ferrell, testified that Cutts picked her up in his truck the morning of June 14 with Davis' body in the back and help up his right arm to demonstrate how he killed her.
Jurors will return Feb. 25 to hear evidence on whether to recommend the death penalty. The aggravated murder count could also bring life in prison without parole or life with parole eligibility after at least 20 years.