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Court Reverses Woman’s Murder Conviction Because Her Co-Defendant Ex-Husband Testified Against Her Remotely

Erica Stefanko

Erica Stefanko

An Ohio appeals court overturned the murder conviction of a woman who allegedly lured her then-husband’s former girlfriend into a deadly trap.

Judges with the Court of Appeals in the Ninth Judicial Circuit determined that the trial court erred by letting confessed killer Chad Cobb testify remotely against defendant Erica Stefanko, 39, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They decided this violated Stefanko’s right to confront the witnesses against her in court on charges she helped kill Ashley Nicole Biggs, 25.

From the ruling authored by Judge Lynne Callahan:

There may, of course, be times when a defendant does not object to the use of remote testimony. There may be other occasions when, having considered the issue in the manner contemplated by the United States Supreme Court, a trial court determines that the remote testimony of individual witnesses is warranted by the circumstances and that the safeguards of the Confrontation Clause are adequately addressed. Neither situation, however, is present in this case.

Stefanko was convicted of aggravated murder, and murder in November 2020. Authorities said she called in an order to Domino’s, luring pizza delivery driver and Cobb’s ex-girlfriend Biggs to a trap, where Cobb committed the actual murder. After the slain woman did not return to work, her manager called police, according to the new ruling. Officers who responded to the address of the delivery found it was “pitch black,” and there was signs of a struggle, as well as “a significant amount of blood in the parking lot.”

Cobb and Biggs shared a daughter together but had a custody dispute. After learning of this from the Domino’s manager, police went to the home of Cobb’s grandparents, where they found him crouching behind a tree in nearby woods. A Wayne County deputy later found the murdered Biggs and her missing vehicle.

Facing the death penalty, Cobb eventually pleaded guilty to charges including aggravated murder and kidnapping. He made no deals to testify against or implicate anyone. By the time he did testify remotely in Stefanko’s murder trial, however, she had moved on and married his friend Mike Stefanko.

Cobb’s and Biggs’ daughter also testified about Erica Stefanko ordering a pizza but details of her story conflicted with her father.

Other evidence against defendant Stefanko included a secret phone recording showing that she admitted to participating in the killing by making the pizza delivery call.

The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the ruling, telling Law&Crime that they are still reviewing everything for their next step.

[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]

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