NEWS

Ohio man found guilty of rape, murder of 4-month-old daughter

Doug Staley

Jay L. Biggs closed his eyes and shook his head as guilty verdicts were read Friday inside a Stark County courtroom.   

He will have to wait more than a week to learn his punishment.

A Common Pleas jury convicted the former Massillon man of raping and killing his 4-month-old daughter, Jaydee, after a six-day trial. The jury deliberated roughly 15 hours over two days before reaching its verdict.

Biggs, 24, of Clinton, who was found guilty of multiple felony counts, showed little emotion during the hearing.

The panel will return to the courthouse Oct. 20 for the sentencing phase of the trial. The jury will have an opportunity to hear and consider additional testimony before making a sentencing recommendation.

Biggs could face the death penalty or one of three life sentence options: life in prison without the possibility of parole; life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years; life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.

Attorneys for both sides, special prosecutors Emily Laube and Paul Scarsella and public defenders Jean Madden and Tammi Johnson, remain under a gag order imposed by Judge Charles Brown and declined to comment. The judge also instructed jurors not to discuss the case until the sentencing phase is completed.

Several courthouse employees gathered to hear the jury’s verdict, but there were no family members present.

In April, a grand jury indicted Biggs on two counts each of aggravated murder, murder and single counts of rape and child endangering, all felonies. Biggs faced multiple murder counts because he was indicted under separate sections of Ohio law. One of the charges alleged Jaydee’s death occurred during a sexual assault. The other was filed under a statute alleging the victim was under the age of 13.

Authorities initially believed Jaydee died of natural causes on June 5, 2006, at the family’s former home at 215 Ninth St. S.W. However, a criminal investigation was launched after an autopsy revealed signs of sexual trauma.

The Coroner’s Office eventually ruled Jaydee died of asphyxia due to smothering. Biggs and his wife, Diana, never gave authorities an explanation for their daughter’s injuries. The nearly two-year probe culminated in Biggs’ arrest last April in Cuyahoga County.

During the trial, prosecutors argued Biggs raped his daughter, then smothered her by placing his hand over her face.

A defense witness testified Jaydee could have died from sudden infant death syndrome.

Biggs took the witness stand in his own defense and denied causing her death. Biggs told the jury he put his daughter to bed around 8:30 p.m.

When he awoke, Biggs said he went to check on his children and found the infant with a blanket pulled over her face.

Biggs’ testimony contradicted earlier statements to police that the blanket was wrapped three times around Jaydee’s head.

The Independent