CLEVELAND -- A Parma embalmer who twice had been convicted of the 1992 murder of his wife and both times had those convictions set aside avoided a third trial today by entering a plea of guilty to involuntary manslaughter and insurance fraud, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty confirmed.
Robert G. Girts, 60, entered his guilty plea and described how he caused the death of Diane Girts at a hearing before Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael E. Jackson.
Jackson then imposed the agreed upon, mandatory sentence of six to 30 years. Since Girts has already served more than 15 years, it will be up to the Ohio Parole Board to determine how much additional prison time he should face.
In court, Girts stated that he planned his wife's death.
He obtained cyanide and, before leaving on a trip to Chicago, put it in her salt shaker, knowing she used it daily. During his two trials, Girts' defense had asserted that his wife committed suicide with cyanide.
"He has finally taken full responsibility for killing this innocent woman," said Assistant County Prosecutor Anna Faraglia, who represented the State of Ohio. "The soul of Diane Girts after 21 years can finally find a resting place. She died at the hand of another."
Prosecutor McGinty said the plea agreement was a just outcome to the long-running case.
"Even if we won another murder conviction and the verdict was upheld, this killer might have been out faster than he will be with this plea, which carries an excellent probability of an additional 14 years in prison," Prosecutor McGinty said, after the hearing.
"After his latest violent incident against yet another woman in Ashtabula and his forced confession in open court today, we want to keep him 'inside' as long as possible. We believe the Parole Board will deny parole, and he will remain in prison well into his 70's or he will die in the institution."
The long road to today's plea began on September 2, 1992, when the dead body of Diane Girts, 42, was found in the bathtub of the couple's Parma home.
One month later, Cuyahoga County Coroner Elizabeth Balraj ruled that her death had been caused by cyanide poisoning.
Robert Girts was indicted and arrested on February 9, 1993.
A Cuyahoga County jury found him guilty of aggravated murder on June 3, 1993, but the conviction was overturned on procedural grounds by the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals on July 28, 1994.
Girts was retried in Cuyahoga County and, on August 9, 1995, a jury again found him guilty of aggravated murder. On September 5, 2007, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that conviction, again on procedural grounds.
In 2008, he was rearrested and, after another round of litigation, the 6th Circuit ruled that Girts could be tried again for his wife's murder.