Detective secretly recorded Warren County man facing death penalty

Lawyers for the 38-year-old South Lebanon man facing the death penalty in connection with the beating death of his adoptive sister want all his statements to police thrown out, citing the likelihood he was feeling the effects of heroin or withdrawal from it when he was questioned.

They also argued that a detective secretly recorded the man’s statements during a “smoke break.”

Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold said the statements were all taken in keeping with state law, noting Christopher Kirby recited the Miranda warnings as he was given them by Henning.

Kirby and his wife, Jacqueline, were arrested on Sept. 15, 2017, after Debra Power and her husband, Ronnie Power, were found at the home they shared with the Kirbys in South Lebanon. Police had been summoned by a 911 call from an 8-year-old boy.

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Debra Power was dead, her husband badly beaten.

On Wednesday, Christopher Kirby’s lawyers urged Judge Donald Oda II to suppress statements made in a series of interviews, sometimes by detectives alternating between him and his wife.

While they re-interviewed his wife, a detective led an unrestrained Kirby outside and talked with Kirby, who was crying and expressing concern for his wife and children and expressing ignorance of who was responsible — all while a small recorder was running in the detective’s pocket.

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Kirby was first interviewed at West Chester Hospital, the day after the incident. At the hospital, Detective Jay Henning said he recovered the victims’ truck and three credit cards allegedly taken from the Powers.

Henning said he knew Kirby had recently used heroin and was in the hospital, but indicated he determined Kirby was able to knowingly respond to questions there and at the sheriff’s office in Lebanon.

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Kirby’s lawyer, Timothy McKenna, noted Henning was aware Kirby was having bladder problems that could be associated with a heroin high and moved his knees nervously, possibly indicating withdrawal, but no drug tests were given.

McKenna also pointed out another detective advised Kirby he needed to quit heroin, noting how it was aging him prematurely.

“The statements were involuntary,” McKenna said Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Detective Paul Barger acknowledged Kirby was unaware he was being recorded during the smoke break.

“He was not. I had it in my pocket,” Barger said.

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Parts of three recordings, two including video, were played.

“Can Jackie go home?” Kirby asked as detectives urged him to say what happened.

Oda said he would rule on the suppression motion later. The capital murder trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 22.

In April, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kirby, 31, was sentenced to three years on probation for her part in the case and ordered her to enter the Women’s Recovery Center, an outpatient substance abuse program in Xenia.

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