Prosecutors Present Possible Motive in Ross Trial
AKRON, Ohio — The first witness Monday in the murder trial of Denny Ross, 33, is a man who prosecutors say provides a possible motive for the murder of Hannah Hill in May 1999.
Daniel Doyle claims to have driven Ross to an auto auction in May of 1999 during which Ross told him he had been arrested on a drug charge and blamed Hill for setting him up for the arrest.
Doyle’s testimony was challenged by Defense Attorney Roger Synenberg on Friday.
Synenberg argued out of the presence of the jury that Ross had in fact not been just let out of prison.
Trying to keep Doyle from testifying, Synenberg argued before Judge Judith Hunter that by the time Hannah Hill disappeared in May of 1999, that Ross already knew the actual informant for his drug arrest was someone named Theresa Graves.
Synenberg argued that by the time Hill was killed, Ross had already made peace with Graves for being the informant.
Synenberg made the case that the testimony would be “of little probative value,” and told Judge Judith Hunter that it would be more damaging to Ross because it would let the jury know that he had a prior felony, something they had managed not to let the jury know through the first week of trial.
Judge Hunter allowed the testimony, but before trial on Monday, instructed Doyle that in his testimony he was not to loosely use the words “narking” or mention that Ross had been “locked up.”
Doyle was also instructed not to mention anything about a felony conviction or that Ross had been arrested. Doyle was told, however, that it was alright for him to quote Ross, who he claims told him, “Hannah had ‘narked’ on him.”
Under direct questioning by special prosecutor Anna Faraglia, Ross testified on Monday that “(Ross) mentioned something about where he would have been prior to that day, and he was mad at Hannah.”
Doyle carefully testified that it was “because he thought that she had told on him.”
“Told on him about what?” questioned Faraglia.
“Him getting arrested,” answered Doyle.
“For what,” asked Faraglia.
“Cocaine,” he answered.
Doyle testified that he had never met Hannah Hill.
“At first, I just thought he was kind of just blowing steam,” said Doyle. “And he said, ‘No, I’m serious. He goes, ‘That (expletive) narked me out.’ “
“And who was he referring to?” asked Faraglia.
“Hannah,” answered Doyle.
Doyle testified that he was under the impression that Ross was “seeing her on the side,” and testified that Ross told him, “If I find out she narked me out, I’m going to kill that (expletive).”
Later, after Hill was discovered murdered on May 26, Doyle says he was watching a newscast on TV and saw Ross’ picture.”
Doyle says he tried about three times to call police, but never got a call back. “I just figured there was no return call.”
Doyle’s testimony on Monday was abruptly interrupted by Judge Hunter when he said he decided to come forward after Ross’ first murder trial in 2000, which ended in a mistrial.
Doyle on Monday testified that he “knew that there was going to be a re-trial and he had gotten off.”
Under defense cross-examination, Doyle admitted he never told police or a newspaper reporter he contacted that he “had very important information” about Hill’s murder.
Hannah Hill, 18, disappeared on May 19, 1999, starting a desperate search that ended five days later on Caine Road, when police finally realized that a car which had been abandoned was Hill’s.
During a search of the vehicle, Hill’s body was discovered in the trunk. Prosecutors say Ross had admitted Hill was with him the night she disappeared.
Ross was tried for the crime in 2000, but that ended in a mistrial.
He is currently serving a 25-year sentence for an unrelated rape.
On Monday, Doyle testified that he never told anyone about what Ross said to him until 2011, when he told Jerry Hughes from the prosecutor’s office about the conversation.