Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Richland
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016 CR 0479
Plaintiff-Appellee GARY BISHOP PROSECUTING ATTORNEY JOSEPH C.
Defendant-Appellant RANDALL E. FRY
JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon.
Craig R. Baldwin, J.
Defendant-Appellant Linda Buckner appeals her conviction, in
the Court of Common Pleas, Richland County, for aggravated
murder, murder, and other felony counts. Appellee is the
State of Ohio. The relevant facts leading to this appeal are
In the summer of 2015, appellant and her boyfriend, Walter
Renz, were the next-door neighbors of Patsy Hudson, who lived
alone at 284 Spring Street in Mansfield, Ohio. Hudson, then
in her early sixties and on disability, was known to rescue
and take care of a large number of cats in or around her
house. Her adult son, Lonnie Clevenger, drove trucks for a
living, but he periodically stopped at the house to visit.
According to Lonnie, Hudson sometimes demonstrated reclusive
behaviors, refusing to answer the door or the telephone if
she was busy watching television or was simply having a bad
Appellant and Renz became acquainted with Hudson, and
occasionally drove her on local errands.
On June 25, 2015, appellant, using the alias "Cara
Longtail, " went to the emergency room in Shelby,
complaining of pain. Tr. at 400. She was prescribed Flexeril
and Atenolol at that time by Dr. Charles Marti, who was on
duty in the E.R. Tr. at 408. Dr. Marti later testified he
wrote appellant the prescription for Atenolol because
appellant told hospital personnel she been prescribed that
medication, but she did not have any left. Tr. at 409. Both
Dr. Marti and a second physician testifying for the State
opined that a high enough dose of Atenolol could be fatal.
Tr. at 416, 634-636.
At about this time, appellant was speaking to neighbors about
taking Hudson on a trip to Florida, although at one point she
also stated that she was angry about Renz spending time at
Hudson's house. One of the neighbors, Walter Liggett,
specifically recalled that appellant and Renz, in late June
2015, "[s]aid they was [sic] going to head back
down south and take Patsy [Hudson] with them to her sister in
Florida." Tr. at 352.
Appellant and Renz also told this neighbor that they were
helping Hudson get rid of her cats. Despite this claim,
Hudson was worried someone was trying to poison her cats, and
told her son, Lonnie Clevenger, about this concern when he
visited her in early July 2015. At one point, Hudson also
informed police of the situation. Also, she continued to take
some of the cats in for veterinarian appointments in early
July. One appointment was scheduled for July 22, 2015, but
Hudson did not show up at the veterinarian clinic.
Shortly before July 4, 2015, another neighbor, Mark Clever,
overheard an outdoor "yelling and screaming"
argument involving the appellant, Renz and Hudson. Within a
couple of weeks, he began to notice Hudson's mail piling
Nicholas Miller, owner of a local lawn service, was contacted
by Hudson in early July 2015. Hudson told him that "her
neighbors" had been helping her with yard work, but she
was concerned that they had "poisoned her cat or
something, " so she didn't want them taking further
care of her lawn. Tr. at 398. On July 10, 2015, Miller mowed
Hudson's grass and received payment for his work. This
was the last day Hudson was seen alive in the neighborhood.
On July 10, 2015, Karissa Gibson, a resident of Shelby, Ohio,
was on her lunch break when she drove past an older-model
blue van, similar to one owned by Renz, pulled over on the
side of a country road. She noticed a "creepy
looking" man in the process of dumping something. Tr. at
279, 292, 300. The next day, she went by again and found a
number of cats in the area where the van had been sitting.
Tr. at 287. Some of them had collars. Tr. at 289. She
returned to that spot and eventually, with the help of a
neighbor, took in over twenty cats found in the general
location. Tr. at 290. Unfortunately, a couple of days later,
a heavy rain flooded the spot, which is near a creek.
Sometime between late July and early August 2015, appellant
and Renz vacated and abandoned the premises at 290 Spring
Street, where they had been living. When the landlord, Dwight
Wallen, went through the property, he found a ring washer in
the basement that was not there when he first rented the
house to them. A ring washer was later found to be missing
from Hudson's house. Investigators also found a seven-day
pill container, with six days' worth of various
medications, in Hudson's house. Tr. at 487.
On August 3, 2015, another neighbor, Steve Au, called the
police after noticing Hudson's mail accumulating, her
grass being quite overgrown, and the cats having
"vanished." Tr. at 332. When Hudson's son,
Lonnie, next went to see her in August 2015, there was no one
home. Tr. at 178. However, both of Hudson's vehicles were
still at the house. Tr. at 178. He attempted to call the
number he had for his mother, but another female voice
answered. Tr. at 182. Lonnie later observed that his
mother's jewelry boxes and two guns were missing from her
house. Tr. at 201.
Between July 2015 and January 2016, Hudson's debit card
was used in various locations throughout the United States.
Tr. at 453-459. It was used in Ohio, Indiana, Missouri,
Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia,
North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Id.
On December 22, 2015, officers from the Mansfield Police
Department commenced a missing person investigation. The
officers learned, among other things, that appellant and Renz
had been using appellant's debit and credit cards. Upon
questioning by detectives, Renz finally led police to various
locations where parts of Hudson's dismembered body had
Investigators also found a nightgown, with numerous
bloodstains, in the Spring Street residence where appellant
and Renz had been living at the time of Hudson's
disappearance. Tr. at 506. Two of the stains were matched to
appellant; a third stain also contained appellant's
blood, along with an unknown human contributor, described as
a "minor DNA profile." Tr. at 833.
In addition, as further discussed infra, appellant
later made admissions about her involvement in an Ohio
killing to a woman she met in Mississippi.
On July 1, 2016, appellant was indicted by the Richland