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State of Ohio v. Thomas C. Dibiase

December 24, 2012


Criminal Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 11 CR 000036.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Jane Trapp, J.

Cite as

State v. DiBiase,


Judgment: Affirmed.

{¶1} Thomas DiBiase appeals from the decision of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, which found him guilty of two counts of Burglary, two counts of Receiving Stolen Property, and two counts of Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity pursuant to a jury verdict; he was sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison. Mr. DiBiase was found to have participated in a burglary ring active in both Lake and Geauga counties, and was prosecuted under a theory of complicity. He challenges both the sufficiency and the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶2} We find that the state presented sufficient evidence to withstand a motion for a directed verdict, and that the manifest weight of the evidence supports the jury's verdict of guilty as to the six counts. Therefore, the judgment and sentence of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas is affirmed.

Substantive Facts and Procedural History

{¶3} In February and March 2010, a number of burglaries took place throughout Lake County demonstrating a similar modus operandi. It was the state's theory that these burglaries were committed by a team of people, working in concert to case potential homes, burglarize those homes, and then unload the loot via area pawn shops and precious metal dealers.

The Ritchey Burglary

{¶4} In February 2010, John Vaughan was watching over the Willoughby Hills home of his friend Stephan Ritchey. Mr. Ritchey and his wife own another home in Utah, and were residing there during the month of February. Mr. Vaughan checked on the home in mid to late February and found the Ritchey home had been burglarized. The back door had been kicked in, and items including a flat-screen television had been taken. Mr. Vaughan called the police immediately and placed a report. Officer Neath of the Willoughby Hills Police Department responded to the call, spoke to Mr. Vaughan, and collected evidence. No fingerprints, blood, or other physical evidence were recovered from the Ritchey house. During the course of his immediate investigation, Officer Neath was informed that a large brown vehicle had been seen in the area that day.

{¶5} Mr. Ritchey arrived home a few days after the burglary was discovered to take stock of the home and survey the damage. He indicated that the items stolen included the flat-screen television, jewelry and jewelry boxes, and cash; he and his wife estimated the value of the stolen items at $5,900.

{¶6} A few weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Ritchey located one of their missing items at George's Pawn Shop in Euclid. The receipt for the item indicated that it had been sold to the shop by a man named Dale McNaughton.

The Stewart Burglary

{¶7} On March 2, 2010, Sandra Stewart returned home from work to find that her home, located in Mentor, had been burglarized. Various items, including jewelry, jewelry boxes, personal records, and collectible coins, had been taken from her home. She estimated the value of the items taken at close to $10,000. It appeared that the burglar had gained entry via a side door leading to the laundry room, but a window in the family room had also been broken. She later discovered that there was also damage to her sliding glass door.

{¶8} Mrs. Stewart alerted authorities, who began an investigation. The police, among other efforts to collect evidence, took molds of the damage to the window and sliding glass door, as well as foot prints found in the snow outside. They eventually connected the damage to the door and window to a blue pry tool recovered from a silver Buick driven by a young man named Sergio Reynolds, Mr. DiBiase's son, and the foot prints to shoes owned by Mr. DiBiase's friend Dale McNaughton.

{¶9} During the course of their investigation, Mentor Police were provided useful information from Bonivere Stewart and Patricia Wigand. Bonivere Stewart, Mrs. Stewart's mother-in-law and across-the-street neighbor, told police that a young man had knocked on her door around 1:30 p.m. on March 2, 2010. She answered the door and found a college-aged man asking her to sign a petition against casinos in Ohio. He held a spiral bound notebook with the words "No Casinos in Ohio" handwritten on the front cover. Bonivere Stewart declined to sign the petition, and then observed the young man walk through her yard and on to the next house. She later identified this individual as Dale McNaughton.

{ΒΆ10} Patricia Wigand, a neighbor of the Stewarts, told police that she had observed some concerning activity on the afternoon of March 2, 2010. Ms. Wigand observed a man wearing a hoodie walk down the Stewarts' driveway and across the street carrying a plastic bag containing something. She watched the man cross the street, sit in the snow, and place a call on a cell phone. A few minutes later, Ms. Wigand observed a silver or grey Buick pick up the hoodie-clad man. She did not see the person driving the car, as he did not exit the vehicle. Ms. ...

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