Murder suspect claims drug-induced "haze'

Saturday, August 8, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Raymond Tibbetts took the stand in his defense Friday and did not deny killing his wife and her landlord.

"Sir, did you kill Sue Tibbetts?" his attorney, Julius Sanks asked.

"I don't know," Mr. Tibbetts replied.

"Did you kill Fred Hicks?" Mr. Sanks asked.

"I don't know," Mr. Tibbetts repeated.

Mr. Tibbetts' defense is that a lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse culminated that November night in a drug-induced haze, and that he has no recollection of the slayings or what he was doing when the slayings were committed. A Hamilton County jury heard his testimony Friday, and will begin deliberations Monday.

Convincing the jury that he was under the influence and "blacked out" at the time of the slayings could lead to a conviction, but Mr. Tibbetts may escape the death penalty.

Mr. Tibbetts, 41, was arrested two days after the bodies of Mrs. Tibbetts and her landlord, Mr. Hicks, 67, were found beaten and stabbed in Mr. Hicks' home in the Mohawk neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine. He had checked himself into a northern Kentucky hospital in search of treatment from a psychiatrist.

One other witness, Jack Gratsch, testified for the defense. He testified that he found Mr. Tibbetts sleeping on Mr. Gratsch's boat on the Ohio River shortly after the slayings, and that Mr. Tibbetts was pleasant and presented no threat.

Mr. Gratsch said Mr. Tibbetts, who was holding a knife he found on the boat, told him he had broken into the boat to sleep. Mr. Gratsch said he confirmed that Mr. Tibbetts had damaged nothing but the door and that he let him go on his way.

Mr. Tibbetts testified that he had a relationship from 1985 to 1987 with Ms. Tibbetts, and they had a daughter together. He said after they split up, he did not see her for a decade. The next time they saw each other, they met in an Over-the-Rhine bar.

He said they spent the night together, she asked him to marry her and they were married the next day. He moved into the home Mrs. Tibbetts shared with Mr. Hicks, a retired electrician whom she cared for because he had health problems.

Mr. Tibbetts said his drug use was so bad -- prescription pills, crack, bottles of vodka and beer -- that he had to borrow or steal money to feed it. He said on the morning of the killings, he had used all those substances.

"My mind was so distorted at the time, I don't know what I was doing," he said. "I did not kill anybody I know of. I can't tell you for sure. I don't know."

Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier challenged Mr. Tibbetts, asking why Mr. Tibbetts could remember things before and after the slayings, but not what he was doing at the time of the deaths. Mr. Tibbetts said he did not know.

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