Judge in Warren County death penalty case: ‘I choose life’

Judge Donald Oda II sentenced an inmate on Thursday to life in prison without parole for murdering his cellmate in April 2018 at Lebanon Correctional Institution.

“No one ever taught Jack Welninski the value of human life,” Oda said during a long explanation of his decision.

On Friday, the jury found Welninski, 34, guilty of aggravated murder while at the prison outside Lebanon after just over an hour of deliberations. It deliberated about six hours before recommending the death penalty.

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Welninski was found guilty of the aggravated murder of Kevin Nill, 40, of Piqua, an hour after they were put together in a cell in April 2018 and within four weeks of when Nill was to be released from prison.

Welninski used a bandage intended to immobilize his broken arm to strangle to death Nill, who was serving a short prison sentence for attempted domestic violence.

Oda ruled the mitigating factors outweighed those that would have prompted him to order the death penalty.

“I choose life,” Oda said.

Nill’s family made statements before the sentence was ordered.

“It feels like someone has ripped your heart out of your body,” his mother said in a statement read by a victims advocate.

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