Man arrested after two-year probe into two suspicious deaths

CLEVELAND (AP) - The mystery surrounding the suspicious deaths of two people under similar circumstances in the same house a year apart may be solved, investigators said.
Police and prosecutors said they've wrapped up their two-year investigation into the 2001 murder of Barbara Davis and the 2002 murder of Donald Ehrke with the indictment and arrest of Mark Ducic, Davis' common-law husband and Ehrke's friend.
Police investigators were suspicious when they found Davis, 41, dead of a drug overdose in a suburban Euclid home in 2001. In 2002, Ehrke, 44, died in the same house under apparently similar drug-induced conditions.
Ducic's motive in both cases was to silence a potential witness against him, said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who will seek the death penalty for the 51-year-old Euclid resident.
"Some of the hardest cases to prove are ODs," Mason said. "But after a couple of years, Ducic thought he had gotten away with it, and a certain cockiness settled in."
A jail informant, working with police and wearing a hidden wire, befriended Ducic in County Jail this year while he awaited trial on a stalking case, Mason said. The informant told Ducic he was concerned about a potential witness testifying against him.
Ducic told the informant he would administer a lethal concoction of drugs to the witness for $5,000. He also told his new friend he'd killed two people using the same solution, Mason said.
The man gave Ducic a $500 down payment for the hit, Mason said. Armed with the tape and Ducic's description of how he had killed the others, Cleveland police Detective Greg Whitney and Agent Lynn Edward Mudra of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy went to work with Assistant County Prosecutor Dan Kasaris to build a case against Ducic.
Forensic tests on blood preserved from Davis' and Ehrke's autopsies found both contained lethal amounts of oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxycontin, cocaine, valium and alcohol. Police say the drugs were given to Davis and Ehrke in lethal "hot shots" that were snorted or smoked.
A grand jury issued a secret indictment against Ducic, charging him with two counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, plus conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, attempted murder and drug charges.
The grand jury also returned indictments against Jeff Koren, a Euclid city streets employee accused of selling drugs to Ducic and leaving his 11-year-old son as collateral while he picked up the drugs. Koren was fired Friday on suspicion of selling street signs for scrap.
Ducic was in jail Tuesday and unavailable to comment. His mother said he does not have a lawyer.
State and county criminal records show Ducic has been in and out of prison since 1977 for drug charges, breaking and entering, theft, extortion, assault, gross sexual imposition, and attempted escape.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)