WARREN - A 40-year-old area man who was said to work at times as a tattoo artist and stay in different homes for only days at a time was found guilty Friday of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.
Richard Clark, who police and prosecutors said killed and robbed Dwayne Hickman, 49, to feed his heroin habit, showed little or no emotion after a jury took less than 90 minutes to return the verdict to Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice.
Rice scheduled sentencing for 11 a.m. Sept. 26. Assistant county prosecutor Chris Becker said he will draft a sentencing memorandum for Rice requesting a sentence of life behind bars with no chance of parole.
Clark is led back to jail from Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice’s courtroom.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
''That's what he deserves given his track record and the brutality of the crime,'' Becker said.
Hickman was found stabbed to death March 25 inside the bathroom of his Williamsburg Street N.W. home, where Clark had been staying briefly.
Trumbull Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, who testified Thursday, fixed the time of death as March 21 and said Hickman was stabbed 11 times and sliced four other times. All the wounds were on the head and neck area.
Shortly after Hickman's body was found, police found Hickman's car, containing his wallet and phone, parked outside a Maryland Street home were Clark had started staying. Inside a room in the Maryland home, police found several family heirloom guns belonging to Hickman. When they went to question Clark, he was found unconscious in the bathtub after overdosing on heroin.
It took about four days for him to recover at a local hospital. Detectives charged him with possession of heroin and later with Hickman's murder.
Detectives found the murder weapon - a large broken kitchen knife - in a trash bag wrapped in a rag along with a sweater that others had seen Clark wearing days earlier.
Becker and assistant prosecutor Gabe Wildman used DNA tests to find traces of Hickman's blood on the knife and Hickman and Clark's DNA on the bloody sweater.
Meanwhile, Hickman's DNA was also found in spots of blood on Clark's blue jeans inside his room at the Maryland house where he was invited to stay by a woman who bought two tattoos from him for $80.
''He's a thief and a drug addict. That's what he does. He's a bum!'' Becker told the jury of nine women and three men during his closing arguments Friday morning.
Becker gave credit to Wildman for handling key testimony and the rebuttal portion of the final arguments in his first murder trial. He also praised Detective John Greaver, who worked for the first time as lead investigator in a murder case.
Becker and Wildman spent considerable time convincing jurors to discount the defense's strategy of calling the case circumstantial with no eyewitnesses.
''Make sure there are all the ingredients in the legal recipe,'' defense attorney Matt Pentz said.
Pentz insisted that some of the DNA samples may not have come from blood spots. He said there should have been a blood splatter expert. He said jurors should consider all the evidence and think about why a murderer would park the victim's car right outside the home where he was staying.
Pentz and defense attorney David Rouzzo were trying to convince the jury that Hickman had given Clark certain things and loaned him his car. ''No witnesses ever said there were problems between Clark and Hickman,'' Pentz said.
Wildman told jurors, ''The defense lives in a fantasy world. They would have you believe an animal in the woods committed the murder.
''Do you really think Mr. Hickman would give away all his personal belongings to this guy?'' Wildman said, pointing to Clark.