Ralph Doren, who was found guilty in 2006 of aggravated murder in the slaying of Northwood resident Deanna Meeks, was convicted again in the Wood County Court of Common Pleas last month after an appeals court last year overturned the first conviction.
Doren was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 20 years.
Meeks was 19 when she was found slain in her Lester Avenue Home on June 7, 1991.
Doren, 59, had been a co-worker of Meeks’ mother’s boyfriend at the time he burglarized the home, unaware Meeks was in the house. He killed her so she couldn’t identify him.
The case went cold for years until it was re-opened in 2003 by former Northwood Police Chief Gerald Herman and Capt. Trent Schroeder, the lead investigator in the city’s cold case unit.
The trial court convicted Doren in 2006 for aggravated murder and sentenced him to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 20 years.
But the Ohio Court of Appeals 6th Appellate District on Jan. 19, 2009, overturned the conviction, saying an error had violated Doren’s fundamental right to a fair trial. The court, in a 2-1 decision, vacated Doren’s conviction and remanded the matter for a new trial.
The court ruled that the prosecution had violated the judge’s order by publishing Doren’s statements regarding a polygraph test.
On June 7, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex heard the case instead of a jury. On June 10, he rendered his guilty verdict against Doren.
Schroeder told The Press that a majority of witnesses from the original trial had returned to give their testimony against Doren.
In addition, a witness from the Wood County jail overheard a statement allegedly made by Doren while he was at the Wood County jail, said Schroeder. A deputy said he heard Doren make comments about the witnesses.
“He heard the defendant say he was going to snap the necks of the snitches who testified against him,” said Schroeder. “That was additional evidence on top of what we originally had.”
Schroeder said that Doren’s second trial started on the ninth anniversary of Meek’s murder.
Doren is also serving a sentence for sexual assault in Michigan.
“He will be up for parole in 2017 in Michigan. Then he has to come to Ohio to serve his sentence for aggravated murder,” said Schroeder. “It’s unlikely he’ll see freedom again.”
For Schroeder, who was disappointed in the appeals court decision last year, the second conviction reaffirmed his faith in the system.
“At times everyone questions the system,” said Schroeder. “We all question the system at times. With a case of this magnitude, I think it’s very reassuring that justice was served.”