MEDINA — Accused rapist Samuel Legg III made a first appearance Thursday in Medina County Common Pleas Court, where he faces two counts of rape in connection with a 22-year-old cold case thawed by advances in DNA testing.
He walked into the courtroom dressed in a red jumpsuit, shackled at the ankles and wrists.
His eyes were wide and he stared straight ahead as Judge Joyce V. Kimbler conducted the quick hearing.She read the two count indictment in a packed open court, detailing the particulars of the Sept. 7, 1997, crime Legg is accused of committing.
It was then Legg allegedly raped a 17-year-old girl he picked up at a truck stop in Medina County.
Kimbler set a $1 million bond and Legg remains at Medina County Jail.
Kimbler appointed David Shelton as Legg’s defense attorney. Shelton said he had no comment at this time. Kimbler also ordered a competency evaluation on the 49-year-old Legg, who authorities said has suffered from schizophrenia and was living in a group home in Arizona when he was arrested.
“Part of it is because of his living arrangements in Arizona,” Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said. “I haven’t seen any of the medical records.”
Thompson said himself and Scott Salisbury, chief assistant prosecutor, will prosecute the Medina County case. However, it will likely not be Legg’s only case. Legg’s DNA has been linked to at least four homicide victims in Ohio and Illinois. Those cases, according to timelines from authorities happened before and after the Medina County rape.
The case involving his stepdaugher’s death has been reopened, as well.
In the summer of 1990, a 14-year-old cheerleader from Elyria disappeared.
Her body was later found in a wooded area off West River Road. According to news reports from the Gazette’s sister paper, The Chronicle-Telegram, Mormon missionaries stumbled upon the body of Angela Hicks — part skeleton and part mummy — in a thicket near a ramshackle barn south of Midway Mall. A shirt and underwear were lying nearby.
Twenty-nine years later, the case remains unsolved.
During these years, Angela’s best friend, Nikki Myers, has sought justice for her friend.
Myers attended Legg’s initial court appearance and said she believes Legg may be the person responsible for the death of the girl she was inseparable from until Angela seemingly dropped out of sight.
She said Legg looked her in the eye when Medina County Sheriff’s Office deputies brought him into court in handcuffs. She said she felt compelled to be in court Thursday to face who she thinks is responsible for her friend’s death.
“He knew I was there,” Myers said.
Following the hearing, Myers said she remembers so many details of the case because she never gave up hope that her friend’s killer would be found.
“I have to see this through,” Myers said. “I have to do it for her. I’ve never stopped looking.”
Police questioned Legg, Hicks’ stepfather at the time of her disappearance, but no charges were ever filed.
Legg, reportedly the last person to see her alive, told investigators she left to get cigarettes.
Angela’s Army duffel bag was missing from the apartment that Legg shared with his wife at the time, Nancy, and his stepdaughter.
Myers said she believes Angela was Legg’s first victim. She said there could be a long line of victims that have yet to be discovered.
“I’ve been trying so hard to keep her story out there,” she said. “She wouldn’t have given up on me.”
Multiple investigations now open
Following Thursday’s hearing in Medina County, attention turned to Mahoning County.
There, authorities announced at a press conference that Legg had been charged in connection with the 1992 death of a woman whose body was found at an Austintown truck stop.
Legg was indicted on several charges, including aggravated murder, in the death of Sharon Lynn Kedzierski, 43, whose body was found April 9, 1992, at Interstate 80 and state Route 46, according to reports from the Youngstown Vindicator.
According to the state Attorney General’s office, DNA testing has linked Legg to not only the Medina County rape, but other unsolved homicides, one of them being Kedzierski’s.
Kedzierski was not identified until 2013, when her daughter submitted a DNA sample to a national database. She was last seen by her family in Florida in 1985 and was believed to have been a prostitute.
Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino said the department has reopened its investigation into Angela’s death and Legg’s possible role in it.
“We were brought into this group collectively that investigating Sam Legg, and some information has surfaced that we feel is important enough to reopen our investigation,” Costantino said. “Detectives are working on it as we speak.”
Costantino also said that “what happened in 1990 (in Elyria) appears to have maybe led to this progression of other investigations relating to (Legg).”
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will confirmed that his office is also investigating Legg’s connection to Angela’s death.
“We are working cooperatively and sharing information with other agencies,” Will said. “It has been, and continues to be, an ongoing investigation.”
DNA thawed cold case
Prosecutors used familial DNA testing to locate Legg, bringing him back last month from the group home he was living at in Chandler, Arizona.
They went there with a plan to collect DNA and came armed with the details of the years-old case.
The now-nearly 40-year-old victim told authorities she hitchhiked from her then home in Lexington, Ohio, to visit her boyfriend in Cleveland in 1997. On her return trip to Richland County, she accepted a ride from a truck driver at a gas station at the U.S. Route 224 exchange in Westfield Township on Interstate 71.
Authorities said Legg was an independent truck driver who drove for a company in Hinckley.
That’s when the alleged rape occurred, with the victim first pursuing charges outside of the county.
Lexington police requested a rape kit at a Mansfield hospital and turned it over to the Medina County Sheriff’s Office.
Thompson said the Medina County prosecutor’s office — then under the direction of Dean Holman — decided the evidence was not strong enough to bring charges against Legg in November 1997.
Thompson said investigators got a break in the rape case in December while technicians with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were looking for matches to DNA connected to a series of truck stop killings. Because there was no exact match in the bureau’s database, technicians used updated technology to search for a male family member whose DNA profile was similar to the unknown suspect’s.
A match was made and an investigation pointed to Legg as a suspect not only for the truck stop slayings, but the 1997 sexual assault as well.
Thompson subsequently reopened the rape case, focusing on Legg.
“We decided there were questions unanswered in the original investigation,” Thompson said. “I thought the decision not to prosecute was premature.”
Thompson said he and Sheriff’s Detective Kevin Ross flew to Arizona to get a blood sample. The new sample confirmed Legg’s link to the rape and homicides, Thompson said.
Legg had minor brushes with the law over the years, Thompson said, but nothing that would have required him to provide a DNA sample until it was obtained in January.
Thompson said he expects the publicity surrounding Legg’s case will attract attention from other law enforcement agencies with similar unsolved slayings.
“We should not be surprised if there are other victims,” he said. “The people who do these crimes don’t quit on their own without some kind of interruption.”
‘Every emotion you could imagine’
After she heard the news of the press conference Wednesday at the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, Myers said she tossed and turned all night.
She kept running the events of the murders and the rape of a 17-year-old Lexington girl through her head.
“It was every emotion you could imagine, every emotion you could feel at once,” she said. “I’m hopeful that whatever he’s going to be charged with, he’ll be charged with Angela Hicks’ murder as well. I’m hopeful. I’m never going to give up hope.”
Myers, whose maiden name is Nicole Smith, said she was best friends with Angela since she was 6. She was a year older than Angela.
“We lived next door to each other,” she said. “We went to school together.
“It’s been hard on everybody who loved her. She has missed out on every special milestone in our lives.”
Myers has been frustrated with the case for years. She said she often checked in at the Elyria police department to see if there were any breaks in the case.
“(Legg) was the No. 1 suspect,” she said. “He took a lie detector test.”
Charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence. Police believed Angela was just another runaway, but Myers and Angela’s mother, Nancy Legg, urged police to look for something more sinister.
On Thursday, retired Elyria Police Capt. William Cameron, who headed the investigation, said he knew who was to blame for Angela’s death, but he couldn’t prove it.
In his mind, that man was Legg.
“I just couldn’t find proof,” he said. “He wouldn’t confess. But he was the last person to see her, and they had had a fight, apparently. He and Angela didn’t get along too well.”
The inability to make an arrest still frustrates Cameron even decades after his retirement.
“I had everybody working on it. That was the only one in my memory that I couldn’t put all the pieces together,” he said. “But I knew that someday we’d find out. Hopefully now they can hook up the DNA and find proof.”
If that happens, it will not come a moment too soon for Myers and “he’d have to answer for what happened to her.”
“Had they solved the case in 1990, maybe the others wouldn’t have been (allegedly) raped or murdered. It’s very disheartening,” she said.
Losing her best friend had a profound effect on Myers.
“It was tough,” she said. “It was toughest not to say goodbye to her and not see her again.”
Myers gave her daughter Angela’s middle name, Marie.
She has a tattoo of Angela’s name on her leg and a pair of angel wings covers her back.
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