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Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

St. Marys man loses murder case appeal

By Shelley Grieshop
ST. MARYS - A Lima appeals court on Monday upheld a local court ruling that sent a St. Marys man to prison one year ago for beating a man to death outside an area bar in 2010.
The Third District Court of Appeals concurred with the April 2011 conviction and sentencing of Gordon W. Diggle III, 31, of St. Marys, in Auglaize County Commons Pleas Court. A jury convicted Diggle of murder and aggravated robbery, and Judge Frederick Pepple sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison.
Diggle's first parole hearing is slated for October 2035. He is incarcerated at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
The victim, Steven Casad, 64, of St. Marys, was robbed and beaten in an alley outside Friendly Tavern in downtown St. Marys on Sept. 8, 2010. He died four days after the assault from blunt force trauma to the head.
Diggle filed the appeal last fall. His attorney, Katherine Szudy of Columbus, claimed that statements Casad made before he died to a St. Marys Police officer were hearsay and should not have been used as evidence at trial due to the inability to cross-examine the victim.
A large portion of the county prosecutor's case was based on statements Casad made to paramedics, hospital staff and law enforcement within hours of the assault.
Szudy also claimed that Diggle's trial attorney, John Poppe, provided ineffective counsel, and that the two charges should have been merged for sentencing purposes. The appeals court rejected all of Szudy's claims.
Jurors deliberated three hours before finding Diggle guilty of both charges. He was sentenced to a prison term of 15 years to life for the murder conviction and 10 years in prison for the aggravated robbery charge. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively.
Pepple also ordered Diggle to pay a total of $11,115 to Casad's estate for out-of-pocket medical expenses, funeral costs and the cash he stole from the victim.
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