Legal professional for Rittman lady requests furlough, mistrial in homicide case

Stephanie Warsmith
| Akron Beacon Journal

Two new issues have come up in Erica Stefanko’s murder case since she was convicted last month.

Stefanko, 38, of Rittman, was found guilty in a jury trial in November in Summit County Common Pleas Court of aggravated murder and murder for her alleged part in the 2012 slaying of Ashley Biggs, a Jackson Township woman. She is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 11.

Kerry O’Brien, one of Stefanko’s attorneys, requested a furlough for his client to be released from jail to spend time with her family around the holidays. He said Stefanko would wear a GPS monitoring bracelet and check in daily with the probation department.

Prosecutors, though, and Diva Edel, the attorney for the teenage daughter of Biggs and Chad Cobb — the man who killed Biggs — opposed the request. Prosecutors said Stefanko was a flight risk, and Edel said her client “would not feel safe” if Stefanko was released from jail.

Judge Amy Corrigall Jones denied the request.

O’Brien also recently asked Jones to declare a mistrial because of errors he said were made in the first trial. This would mean Stefanko would get a new trial.

O’Brien said Jones failed to follow proper procedures when jurors said they were deadlocked and she urged them to continue trying to reach a consensus. About two hours later, the jurors announced they had reached a verdict.

The attorney also pointed to concerns about jurors feeling pressured to reach a decision because of the looming Thanksgiving holiday and worry about the rising COVID-19 cases in Summit County.

O’Brien didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.

Requesting a mistrial before a defendant is sentenced is an unusual step, though these types of concerns often are raised in appeals after a person is sentenced.

Summit County prosecutors haven’t responded to O’Brien’s motion, and Jones hasn’t ruled on the request.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.

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