Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Long wait ends for police; 1986 murder suspect pleads

Son had once confessed, but first served Canadian sentence

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Norwood police took a phone call 12 years ago from a man who confessed to killing his mother years earlier. The problem was, police didn't know her 1986 death had been a homicide.

And it took until Tuesday - and the expiration of a prison sentence in Canada - for Richard Lee Givens to face a murder charge in the death of Naomi Miller.

Richard Lee Givens, the Norwood man accused of killing his mother in 1986, talks with his lawyer, John Keller, before appearing in front of Judge Patrick Dinkelacker at the Hamilton County Courthouse Tuesday.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
Givens, who had told authorities he strangled his mother and left her dead in her Norwood home - but later recanted - pleaded not guilty in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Givens spent the late 1980s on the run and the last 11 years in a Canadian prison, convicted of sexually molesting an elementary-age girl and trying to kill the girl's mother with rat poison when she threatened to go to the police to report the sex abuse.

"We've been waiting," said Norwood Police Lt. Gary Fye. "We knew whenever Canada was done, he'd come here."

In Ohio, there is no statute of limitations on homicide charges.

On May 11, 1986, officers found Miller's body decomposing on the floor of her Station Avenue home. Officials could never determine how she died, according to the original Hamilton County Coroner's Office report.

Miller, 75, had a broken jaw, broken ribs and a broken hyoid, which is the U-shaped bone at the root of the tongue, the report said. Officials hypothesized that she may have fallen or suffered a heart attack.

Coroner's office officials weren't sure, prosecutors said.

Police officers called Givens, who was living in Toronto but had visited his mother the week before. He refused to talk with them, prosecutors said.

Three years later, the Toronto Police Service accused him of sexually molesting the girl and trying to poison her mother. Givens disappeared during that investigation until he was arrested in Racine, Wis., in 1992.

As Canada sought extradition of Givens to Toronto, Givens called and wrote a letter to the Norwood Police Department, confessing to his mother's death.

"I'll talk to you now - I did it," prosecutors say Givens told an officer.

"The investigation reversed its course when he called," Fye said. "He was very cooperative."

Fye said Givens confessed, hoping to avoid the Canadian charges.

Norwood officers flew to Wisconsin, interviewed Givens and took an taped confession.

But Givens had to first face the Canadian charges. He was convicted there in 1995 of attempted murder, administering a noxious agent and sexual assault. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

A Hamilton County grand jury indicted Givens in 1993 on a charge of murder. Givens is accused of strangling his mother on May 7, 1986 - four days before she was found.

Shortly after the indictment, Givens wrote to Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier, saying he didn't do it. He said he confessed only in hopes of avoiding the Canadian charges.

Givens' attorney, John Keller, did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Givens was released from prison this year. Canadian authorities dropped Givens off at the border, where New York State Police picked him up. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office took over from there.

"A case like this never goes away," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen. "It's something Norwood police have been on top of from the beginning and we're ready to prosecute him."



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