Future son-in-law charged in Strongsville teacher’s killing wants confession, bloody knife suppressed at upcoming trial

October 9, 2018 GMT

Future son-in-law charged in Strongsville teacher’s killing wants confession, bloody knife suppressed at upcoming trial

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The lawyer representing a man charged in the grisly October 2017 stabbing and shooting death of his soon-to-be mother-in-law, longtime Strongsville City Schools teacher Melissa Pleskovic, wants a judge to toss the man’s confession to police and the discovery of a knife with Pleskovic’s blood on its blade.

Jeffrey Scullin Jr.’s lawyer and Cuyahoga County prosecutors are set to meet Friday in Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Barker’s courtroom for a hearing on whether police overstepped their bounds in searching Scullin’s cellphone and vehicle the night of the killing. The attorneys also accused the police of coercing Scullin’s confession.


Scullin is set to begin trial Monday on charges of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, making false alarms and endangering children charges in Pleskovic’s death. 

Pleskovic, 49, was stabbed 35 times and shot twice in the kitchen of her family’s Blazing Star Drive home, investigators said.

Prosecutors believe Scullin, who was engaged to Pleskovic’s daughter Anna, killed his future mother-in-law during an argument and then drove to meet her husband and daughter for a family dinner at Southpark Mall’s Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar, where Anna Pleskovic was a waitress, records say. 

When Pleskovic didn’t show, and Bruce and Anna Pleskovic could not reach her, the family returned to the home, according to a charging affidavit.

They were greeted at the door by the Pleskovic’s son, Kyle Pleskovic, who has autism and is nonverbal, records say. The family stumbled on the gruesome scene, and both Bruce Pleskovic and Scullin called 911 to report the incident, according to court records.

Strongsville police detectives immediately launched an investigation that Scullin’s lawyer, Joseph Patituce, contends in court filings went too far.

Scullin told police they could search the Chevy truck that he was driving that night after they wouldn’t let him remove his infant daughter’s diaper bag and car seat from the back of the truck before they could search the truck and its contents for evidence, the filings say.

Officers searched the truck and found “nothing remarkable,” according to records. But they couldn’t open the center console, where Scullin had told them firearms were stored, because the latch was broken and had to be opened with a screwdriver, records say.


Police then seized the truck and towed it back to the station, where a further search turned up the knife, records say.

Scullin also handed over his cellphone to police at the scene, as did Bruce and Anna Pleskovic, records say.

Copies of search warrants that police obtained for the truck and the cellphone were overly broad and contained no specific information about what they were looking for either in the truck or on the cellphone, Patituce argued.

Patituce also argued that, even though Scullin gave officers permission to search the truck at first, he didn’t consent to them seizing the truck and searching it again. 

Officers arrested Scullin Oct. 31. He denied hurting Pleskovic in an interview with detectives, records say.

Later that same day, an FBI agent came to the police station and Scullin agreed to take a lie-detector test, records say.

Strongsville police detective Robert Stolz confronted Scullin in another interrogation and told Scullin that he failed several portions of the test, and told him that officers found a tactical knife in his truck that had Pleskovic’s blood on it, records say.

The DNA portion was a lie, Patituce claimed, because the medical examiner’s office did not finish its full DNA analysis report until December, nearly two months later.

Patituce wrote in his filing that Stolz was “not to be troubled with concepts such as honesty” and “blatantly, and outrageously, lied” about the evidence police had to pressure Scullin into confessing.

Because of all of those issues, Patituce asked Barker to not allow prosecutors to use evidence from the truck, Scullin’s cellphone or his confession to police at trial.

The lead prosecutor on the case, Christopher Schroeder, argued in response to Patituce’s motions that police did show enough probable cause to search the vehicles and the cellphones.

Stolz’s typed report says that the medical examiner’s office told him on Oct. 31, 2017 that the blood on the knife matched Pleskovic’s, and that Pleskovic’s and Scullin’s DNA was found on the handle of the knife.

That report was given to Patituce in July, before Patituce filed the motion calling Stolz a liar, Schroeder wrote.

Patituce also asked Barker in a separate filing to order prosecutors to turn over a copy of the report from Scullin’s polygraph test. Schroeder contended that prior court rulings have held that, because lie-detector test results are not admissible at trial, they are not technically considered “evidence” and are thus not required to be handed over.

Barker agreed, and denied Patituce’s request.

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