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Prisoner accused of strangling cellmate convicted of murder

March 6, 2020 GMT

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio prisoner accused of strangling his cellmate was convicted by a jury of aggravated murder on Friday and now faces the possibility of being sentenced to death.

A jury in southwestern Ohio’s Warren County deliberated for just over an hour before returning its verdict against Jack Welninski, 34, in the slaying of Kevin Nill, 40, at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in April 2018, the Dayton Daily News reported.

The same jury is scheduled to hear evidence starting Tuesday to decide whether it will recommend to Judge Donald Oda II that Welninski receive the death penalty. Welninski is currently serving a 92-year sentence for the attempted murder of a police officer and other charges, the newspaper reported.

Assistant County Prosecutor Carrie Heisele told jurors during closing arguments that Welninksi requested Nill as his cellmate. Within an hour of being placed together, Welninski used a bandage securing his broken arm and strangled Nill, Heisele said.

Nill, who was from Piqua, was nearing the end of an 18-month sentence for domestic violence when he was killed.

Defense attorney John Kaspar asked jurors to look beyond the evidence and also hold the state accountable for Nill’s death.

“This is an institutional failure,” Kaspar said.

Welninski killed Nill to get transferred to another prison, Assistant County Prosecutor Steven Knippen told jurors, adding that Welninski threatened to kill again if he wasn’t moved. He’s now imprisoned at the state’s supermax prison in Youngstown.

Nill’s death for Welninski “was just a means to an end,” Knippen said.