Judge Overturns 2 Convictions In Woman's Death

RAVENNA, Ohio (AP) - Two men sentenced to spend most of their lives in prison for killing a woman could be released after a judge ruled their convictions were invalid.

Lawyers for both men say the state's case against is so "gutted" that "it is highly unlikely there would even be enough evidence to obtain an indictment."

Motions filed Thursday in the 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Warren ask that both men be released to prepare for new trials.

Randy Resh was convicted twelve years ago in the death of Connie Nardi, 31. Resh's friend, Robert Gondor, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Resh is serving up to life in prison and Gondor is serving up to 51 years. Both men were 24 when Nardi was killed in 1988.

Portage County Common Pleas Judge Charles Bannon ruled on June 14 that the convictions were invalid.

Bannon's decision, based on testimony from an evidentiary hearing in May, said Resh and Gondor were denied their constitutional right to effective counsel.

Evidence that could have helped their cases was never used at either trial, Bannon said.

The state's key witness against the two men agreed to testify after pleading guilty to a reduced murder charge in the case.

Troy Busta, who was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, said he and Resh lured Nardi from a bar where they had been drinking. He said they were later joined by Gondor.

Busta said Resh struck the woman several times in the head and then choked her to death when she resisted their attempts to rape her.

But in a transcript of a lengthy interview with Busta by his two defense lawyers and their investigator in 1988 -- before his plea agreement -- Busta said: "I don't know who did this."

Busta went on to say that he never saw anyone hit Nardi.

Bannon, in his decision, said the transcript "shows pressure being exerted on Busta to decide on what he was going to say to the police."

He said it also shows Busta's "uncertainty as to the facts of the murder."

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said it is too early to say whether his office will take Resh and Gondor to trial again. He was not the original prosecutor when they were convicted.

Resh, in an interview from Mansfield Correctional Institution, told the Akron Beacon Journal that he and Gondor have been "fighting for our freedom for 12 years now."

One of Connie Nardi's two children, 22-year-old Michelle Nardi of Ravenna, said the case was "kind of hard to talk about," because the loss of her mother is still painful.

But if Resh and Gondor did not take part in the murder, she said, they should not have to spend their lives in prison.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)