Thursday, June 17, 2004

Sister: Korn admitted killing

She weeps, recalls confession in 1974 case

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Louise Amburgey wept as she told a Butler County jury that she deeply loves her brother - and that she heard him admit to killing Mildred Ruth Doench 30 years ago.

"I love my brother as I remember my brother, but not as the man he's become," Amburgey, 62, said Wednesday while sitting in the witness chair 10 feet away from her only sibling, Donald L. Korn.

Formerly of Fairfield Township, Korn was convicted of rape in Indiana and faces a possible life prison term if he is found guilty of killing Doench, a retired school principal who was found raped, stabbed and mutilated in her Fairfield Township home in 1974.

A Butler County Common Pleas Court jury is expected to begin deliberating today in a trial that began Monday. Korn's original conviction in Doench's murder was voided because his confession was wrongfully obtained. He is being retried now because new evidence became available, including DNA and previously undiscovered information from witnesses such as Amburgey, of Middletown.

Amburgey's face contorted as she wiped her eyes and mouthed the words, "I'm sorry," to her 59-year-old brother after recounting statements Korn made when she visited him on two separate dates in January 1975, six months after Doench's slaying.

During one visit, Korn's mother had asked him about a jailer's allegation that Korn had killed Doench. Amburgey said her brother replied, "Yes, I did it."

Another time, Amburgey said she asked Korn why he committed the crime, her brother said, "Don't worry about it, sis. What's done is done."

Amburgey said she had not revealed Korn's disclosures to anyone except friends and family previously. No investigator had asked her in detail about her jailhouse conversations with her brother until Detective Frank Smith, the Butler sheriff's "cold-case" specialist, inquired several years ago, Amburgey said.

After Amburgey finished about 45 minutes of testimony, her daughters escorted her into a hallway. Her sobs echoed inside the courtroom after the doors swung shut.

Many spectators, including some of Doench's surviving relatives, also left in tears. Doench's relatives hugged Amburgey and thanked her for what Prosecutor Robin Piper called a courageous act.

"It would have been easy for her to keep her mouth shut and never tell anyone what he said.. But it wouldn't have been right - and Louise knew that," Piper said. "That's why she had to come and testify: Because she knew the truth - and because, in her heart, she probably knows this is the kind of person who probably should never get out of prison."

Under questioning by defense lawyer Greg Howard, Amburgey acknowledged that her brother had initially denied killing Doench during a telephone conversation a month after the slaying.

But Amburgey said her brother has never denied the killing in all the years that followed his admissions to the crime, even though she frequently writes to him and visits him in an Indiana prison where he has been locked up since 1976 for raping a woman and slashing her throat.

After Korn was arrested for that crime, he told Butler County investigators he had killed Doench, records show. But that was after investigators ignored his requests for a lawyer and improperly continued questioning him, an appeals court ruled. With his confession inadmissible, the charges against Korn stood. But authorities lacked sufficient other evidence to try him until recently.

Prosecutors say investigator Smith's persistence and advances in technology enabled the retrial.


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