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Death penalty indictment filed on man accused of killing Westerville officers

COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH) -A Franklin County Grand Jury has returned a death penalty indictment against the man accused of shooting and killing two Westerville Police officers last month.

Quentin Smith, 31, is accused of shooting and killing Officer Anthony Morelli and Officer Eric Joering on Feb. 10. The officers were responding to a 9-1-1 hangup call from Smith's home. Investigators say the officers were shot moments after arriving at the front door of the home.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien announced the grand jury returned a six-count death penalty indictment against Smith.

"Certainly anyone who kills a law enforcement officer who is in the performance of his or her duties is death penalty eligible and as long as I'm county prosecutor - that case will be presented as a death penalty case,"O'Brien said.

O'Brien acknowledged they don't know everything there is to know about Quentin Smith yet - what mitigating factors might be brought up in his defense.

But he said the families of the fallen officers support the pursuit of the death penalty.

FOP president Jason Pappas said this is a case that needs to be tried in court rather than plea bargained.

"I don't want to see somebody who murdered two police officers take the easy way out and just plead," Pappas said. "I think the facts and the cases are strong enough to present to and seek the death penalty. I think enough evidence is there and that a plea isn't necessarily in the state's best interest or society's best interest and therefore I'd like to see the case go forward as a death penalty case."

Getting a Franklin County jury to recommend a death sentence has proven to be difficult in recent years.

Earlier this week, a jury that convicted Brian Golsby on all counts in the murder of OSU student Reagan Tokes could not agree on the death penalty after hearing about Golsby's difficult childhood.

And last year Lincoln Rutledge was spared the death penalty for the murder of Columbus Police SWAT officer Steve Smith after hearing about Rutledge's mental health issues.

O'Brien expects there will be mitigating factors presented in defense of Quentin Smith as well. Ultimately, he said, it's a jury's decision.

"I am more than confident to stand in front of any jury drawn from this county and take the position that in this case the only appropriate punishment is the death penalty," O'Brien said.


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