Death penalty ruling recalls fatal 2014 incident on I-75: Here’s what happened

The Ohio Supreme Court last week affirmed the death penalty sentence of a man found guilty of kidnapping his former girlfriend and then shooting her to death in 2014 in the back of his SUV as he drove along Interstate 75 near Middletown.

Terry Froman, now 47, was convicted by a Warren County jury in 2017 of aggravated murder with special specification for 34-year-old Kim Thomas’ death.

Froman’s killing of Thomas came after he shot and killed her son, Eli, in her Mayfield, Ky. home, then forced her into his SUV. It ended with Froman shooting himself in the leg and shooting Thomas three times as police closed in on the vehicle on Sept. 12, 2014.

The shooting shut down Interstate 75 between Monroe and Middletown for hours on Sept. 12, 2014. Thomas' body was found naked in the backseat.

At trial, prosecutors told the jury Froman did not have a job, burned through a money settlement by buying an SUV and motorcycle and spent his days on the couch while Thomas worked at a nursing home and rehabilitation center. Days before the murders, Thomas told Froman to leave her house.

On Sept. 12, 2014, Froman showed up at Thomas’ residence with a gun. Thomas called out to her teenage son, and Froman shot him twice, according to the prosecutors.

Then he kidnapped Thomas, putting her in his Tahoe and started driving.

At a food mart in Paducah, Ky., Thomas, who was naked and covered with bruises and cuts, tried to flee while Froman was in the store, but he “grabbed her by the hair and stuffed her back in the vehicle,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell told the jury during the trial.

The jury was shown video from that food mart as Thomas, holding a T-shirt in front of her, sprinted to a neighboring van and banged on it for help. That’s when Froman came out of the store, grabbed her and dragged her to the SUV.

Froman was convicted after just two hours of jury deliberation.

Several days later, following a mitigation hearing, the jury recommended Froman be sentenced to death, and Kirby formally imposed the same sentence. Froman was later convicted in Kentucky of Thomas’ son’s death and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Froman’s attorney argued the death of Eli could not be used as an aggravated factor in the death penalty consideration in Ohio because he was killed in Kentucky.He argued Warren County lacked jurisdiction to consider the course of conduct.

But in unanimous decision, the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the argument, finding circumstances around Eli’s death did not need to be linked to Ohio to give the Ohio court jurisdiction, but only that Froman’s conduct included purposefully killing Eli before he killed Thomas. The trial court had jurisdiction over Thomas’ murder and the accompanying course-of-conduct specification, it ruled.

The court said it did consider remorse Froman expressed for the murders and acknowledged a psychologist examined Froman and found his IQ score was in the low-average range. But the court concluded his IQ was not low enough to disqualify him from the death penalty.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote that the two death penalty specifications, kidnapping and a continuing course of action, “overwhelm the mitigating factors in the case. Thus we conclude that the aggravating circumstances clearly outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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