Ravenna Men Walk Free After Convictions Are Overturned

RAVENNA, Ohio (AP) - Two men convicted 16 years ago of beating a woman to death have been released from jail about three weeks after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled they should receive new trials.

Robert Gondor was hugged by his mother, Julia Farago of Barberton, as he walked out of the Portage County Jail Friday. Gondor, 42, and Randy Resh, 43, had been behind bars since 1990.

"This is what we've all been working toward for 16 years," said Patty Vechery of Mantua, a friend of both men who went to school with them.

Resh was released a few hours later after arrangements were completed on posting his bond.

Prosecutors plan to retry both men on charges accusing them of killing 31-year-old Connie Nardi in August 1988 and dumping her body in a pond after an evening of drinking in Portage County.

Resh and Gondor, originally from Mantua, appeared in Portage County Common Pleas Court Friday and pleaded not guilty.

Resh choked up briefly as Judge Laurie Pittman denied prosecutors' request for a $1 million bond and allowed him to put up $250,000 in property as security. She set his new trial date for March 27.

During a court hearing for Gondor, about 60 supporters, most with orange ribbons pinned to their shirts, burst into cheers and chanted Gondor's nickname, Robie. His mother cried.

Judge John Enlow set bail at $200,000 and scheduled an April 18 trial date.

Pittman is to consider motions to consolidate the two trials and could rule on the matter next week.

"There's no reason to delay," she said. "That would be unjust."

In December, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reject an appeals court decision that had upheld the men's convictions. The 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren had based its decision in January 2005 on the original juries believing the testimony of the first man convicted in the case, Troy Busta of Hiram.

The convictions had been overturned in June 2002 when Common Pleas Judge Charles Bannon ruled that the juries didn't hear evidence that could have cleared Resh and Gondor.

Resh had been sentenced to up to life in prison and Gondor to up to 51 years. Both men were 24 when Nardi was killed.

"We did not participate in any way, shape or form in the death of Connie Nardi. And that will come out in the second trial," Gondor said after being released.