District Attorney Matt Fogal said Friday during a press conference in the Franklin County Courthouse annex that the filing of the notice of aggravating circumstances will allow his office — if it chooses — to request at a later time to seek the death penalty for Kevin M. Cleeves.
“By filing this notice, I’m maintaining the opportunity to file for the death penalty,” Fogal said.
Cleeves, 35, was charged with three counts of criminal homicide in the July 27 shooting death of his ex-wife, Brandi N. Killingsworth Cleeves, in the driveway of her boyfriend’s Quincy, Pa., home. He also was charged with the fatal shooting of Brandi Cleeve’s boyfriend, Vincent L. Santucci Jr., and Santucci’s mother, Rosemary Holma.
Cleeves also was charged with kidnapping a minor, interference with custody of children, unlawful restraint of a minor and endangering the welfare of children. Those charges relate to Kevin Cleeves’ 4-year-old daughter, Leia, who he was accused of abducting when he fled after the shooting.
The girl was safe when Cleeves was apprehended in northeast Ohio about seven hours after the shootings.
Fogal said the death penalty was warranted because Cleeves is alleged to have committed each killing while in the perpetration of a felony, which in this case includes three murders and kidnapping.
Fogal read a prepared statement of behalf of the victims’ family members, who stood behind him with law-enforcement officials during the press conference.
“The families of the victims support the district attorney’s decision to seek the death penalty for the murderer Kevin Cleeves,” the statement said. “Our families extend our gratitude to the Pennsylvania State Police and the officers from Austintown, Ohio, who successfully captured Cleeves and rescued Brandi’s 4-year-old daughter.
“It is not possible to put into words the loss and the suffering that the defendant has caused all of our families and our friends,” the statement said. “Parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and other family members’ lives have been changed forever by this tragedy.”
Fogal said Cleeves’ arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 28.
Cleeves is being held in the Franklin County Jail.