Former Howland woman sent back to death row - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Former Howland woman sent back to death row

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WARREN, Ohio - A former Howland woman will remain the only woman sitting on Death Row in Ohio.

Donna Roberts has once again been sentenced to death for conspiring with her lover to murder her husband Robert Fingerhut in 2001.

In October, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with a defense attorney who argued that the judge who sentenced Roberts earlier had ignored evidence in the case. The justices upheld her guilty verdict, but sent the case back to Trumbull County court for re-sentencing.

Presiding over a hearing for Roberts on Wednesday, Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Rice denied her motion to hold a full penalty phase hearing and again sentenced her to death.

It wasn't the first time the high court vacated Roberts's 2003 death sentence. In 2006 the justices sent her case back to Trumbull County Court. But after hearing statements from Roberts in the remanded case, the trial court re-sentenced her to death.

In 2001, police-monitored phone calls and letter exchanges between Roberts and her lover, prison inmate Nathaniel Jackson, showed they planned to murder Fingerhut.

Two days after Jackson's release from prison in December 2001, Fingerhut was shot to death at home. Jackson was convicted of murdering Fingerhut and was sentenced to death.

In late March of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal made by 69-year-old Roberts and co-conspirator Jackson.

Judge Rice has ordered that Roberts be sent to the Ohio Reformatory for Women where she will be held until her execution.

Until Wednesday, there were 139 people on death row.  However, Governor John Kasich announced commuted the death sentence of Arthur Tyler to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Tyler was convicted in Cuyahoga County in 1986 for the murder of 74-year-old Sander Leach. 

Kasich issued the following statement:

“After carefully reviewing the case record with my legal counsel and studying the recommendations of the Parole Board, I’ve decided to commute Arthur Tyler’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  The questions that continue around this case are fundamental and the irregularities in the court proceedings are troubling. 

Arthur Tyler’s crime against Sander Leach and his family was heinous and this commutation in no way diminishes that and I pray that Mr. Leach’s family can find peace and healing.”

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