LAKE COUNTY -- The trial of a man charged in the death of a Mentor-on-the-Lake barmaid is underway with members of the jury viewing the crime scene.
Joseph L. Thomas of Perry Township is on trial in the 2010 Thanksgiving rape and murder of Ann McSween. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Police found McSween's body in the woods behind Mario's Lakeway Lounge. McSween was finishing her shift around 3 a.m. when she was attacked behind the building.
"Her carotid artery had been cut," assistant Lake County prosecutor Charles Cichocki told the jury during opening arguments Tuesday.
"You will see pictures from the coroner's office showing a knife had been taken across her neck 2 or 3 times and ultimately one of those moves punctured her and cut her carotid artery."
Cichocki said McSween's face had been badly beaten, and that she had been choked, slashed, and finally stabbed 5 times in the back after she was probably dead.
During the attack, McSween ran to a nearby home and beat on the windows but the homeowner was too scared to go out and called 911 instead. Blood was found outside that house, and in the area McSween was attacked.
Thomas may have been enraged because his girlfriend had broken up with him earlier in the day, prosecutors said. "He had made a Thanksgiving dinner for her and she broke up with him," Cichocki stated.
Defense attorney David Doughten said someone else murdered McSween, because Thomas had already left the bar and gone home when she was killed.
"It was essentially two hours after he had left the bar that the homicide occurred," Doughten told the jury. "I don't think the evidence is going to show he was waiting in the woods for 2 hours for somebody to come out of the bar that night."
Prosecutors laid out what they said was a convincing case against Thomas, including his footprints near McSween's car, his DNA inside her body, as she had been raped, and the fact that McSween's clothing was found in a burn barrell behind Thomas's house.
Doughten discounted the evidence, and said the DNA would prove to be inconclusive, and that the clothing could not be linked to Thomas.