Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Witnesses describe killer's tortured life

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - "Death is fun. Life is not." Jason Sam Campbell once scratched those words into his chest, a psychologist said Monday, testifying that Campbell responded to years of abuse with rage - sometimes directed at himself.

Jurors who convicted Campbell last week of killing two people are now being asked to decide if they should sentence the 22-year-old to death or life in prison. The jury could begin deliberations today in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Last week, attorneys for Campbell conceded the jury would find their client guilty of killing Helen Riley, 55, and her husband, Donald, 44, in their Hamilton home on Feb. 23, 2003.

Monday, his attorneys argued Campbell's brutal childhood should spare him from a death sentence.

"The life of this boy who now stands before you at 22 was nothing like what you or I had," attorney Melynda Cook-Reich told the jury.

A half-dozen witnesses testified that as a child Campbell was starved, sexually assaulted and severely beaten.

By the time he was 11, "He was already irreparably damaged - no amount of treatment or rehabilitation was likely to help," testified Bobbie Hopes, a forensic psychologist.

Prosecutors, though, argue that Campbell deserves the death penalty because the Rileys died violently. They argue Campbell was aware that the killings were wrong.

Records indicate that Campbell was shuffled among more than two dozen foster homes, group homes and institutions and spent much of his childhood taking medication to control his behavior. He hit people and broke things. He lied to protect or to glorify himself. He cut himself and tried to commit suicide.

But, when prosecutors pressed her, Hopes said Campbell does not meet the legal definition of mentally ill, and his problems "would cause him to have rage episodes, but not necessarily murders."

One foster mother, Marilyn Morgan, said Campbell would open doors as a courtesy, helped carry groceries into the house and let her rock him in a chair.

But when something angered Campbell, she said, his rage became virtually uncontrollable; he hit her and others and had to be physically restrained and medicated.


E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com

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