CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The penalty phase in the trial for Joseph McAlpin is underway at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.
McAlpin was found guilty in the double-murder of Michael Kuznik and Trina Tomola at the couple’s car dealership on Good Friday of 2017. McAlpin could face the death penalty.
McAlpin, who has been acting as his own attorney throughout the trial and now the penalty phase, called several of his own family members to testify on his behalf.
Those family members, including McAlpin's siblings, recalled a difficult childhood for the members of the McAlpin household. They did not want their images recorded in print or broadcast.
“I guess my mother had left a gun around and he shot himself in the leg at 5 years old,” said his older sister, speaking about McAlpin.
"A lot of things took place. It's hard to understand," testified his brother. "You're trying to grow up, understand, the best you can, and it's a struggle. No one can understand that and never will unless you in them shoes."
McAlpin became emotional at several points as his family members took the stand, at one point putting his head in his hands and appearing to cry.
As his brother stepped down from the stand, McAlpin mouthed, 'I love you," as he left the courtroom.
The prosecution cross-examined witnesses who came to testify about McAlpin’s childhood difficulties, going through a lengthy history of criminal acts, many dating back to his juvenile record. Some of the crimes were violent.
McAlpin called himself as his final witness, repeating his claims of innocence of the charges, but adding, "I am sorry for the loss of the Kuzniks."
The judge adjourned the case at 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, as the court awaits the availability of a witness for the penalty phase.
The prosecution will present its own case for why McAlpin should be sentenced to death beginning Thursday morning.