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Elyria police reopen 1990 cold case of teen's murder (ARCHIVED STORIES ATTACHED)

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    In 2007, Nichole Smith, now Nikki Myers, holds a photo from the Chronicle-Telegram archives from 1990 when her best friend Angela Hicks was murdered in Elyria.


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    Angela Hicks was a student and cheerleader at Westwood Middle School. She disappeared and was later found dead in 1990.


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    Sam Legg appears in court in 1990.



ELYRIA — The arrest of accused rapist Samuel Legg III in Medina County has prompted police in Elyria to reopen the 29-year-old cold case of the homicide of his 14-year-old stepdaughter, Angela Hicks.

Legg, 49, appeared Thursday before Medina County Common Pleas Court Judge Joyce Kimbler to be arraigned on two counts of rape in connection with a 22-year-old cold case revived by advances in DNA testing.

It’s alleged that Legg raped a 17-year-old girl Sept. 7, 1997, after he picked her up at a truck stop in Medina County. He is being held in Medina County Jail on $1 million bond and the judge ordered that Legg, a former long-haul truck driver with what authorities say is a history of mental illness, be evaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Prosecutors used familial DNA testing to link to Legg to the rape and brought him back to the area last month from the group home he was living at in Chandler, Arizona.

Authorities said his DNA has been linked to four homicide victims — three in Ohio and one in Illinois. Those cases, according to timelines from authorities, happened before and after the Medina County rape.

Elyria police believe that Angela Hicks may have been Legg’s first victim.

Capt. Chris Costantino said the department has reopened its investigation into Angela’s death and Legg’s possible role in it.

“We were brought into this group collectively that’s investigating Sam Legg, and some information has surfaced that we feel is important enough to reopen our investigation,” Costantino said. “Detectives are working on it as we speak.”

Costantino also said that “what happened in 1990 (in Elyria) appears to have maybe led to this progression of other investigations relating to (Legg).”

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will confirmed that his office also is investigating Legg’s possible connection with Angela’s death.

“We are working cooperatively and sharing information with other agencies,” Will said. “It has been, and continues to be, an ongoing investigation.”

Angela’s death

On July 21, 1990, Angela, a 14-year-old Westwood Middle School cheerleader from Elyria, disappeared.

Police believed she was just another runaway, but Angela’s mother, Nancy Legg, and best friend, Nikki Myers, urged police to look for something more sinister.

Nothing was missing from Angela’s room except a large Army duffel bag in which Angela kept her Barbie dolls. No shoes or clothing were gone except for underwear and a shirt Angela slept in.

Five weeks later, on Aug. 30, Mormon missionaries stumbled upon Angela’s body — part skeleton and part mummy — in a thicket near a ramshackle barn south of Midway Mall. A shirt and underwear were lying nearby.

A tiny object was found under the body, which was identified as a Barbie horse stirrup belonging to Angela. Police believed that was a pretty good indication Angela was killed inside her family’s apartment and carried to the woods in a duffel bag.

Angela had been with her 21-year-old stepfather, Samuel Legg, on the evening of July 21 when she disappeared. Legg told police she left the apartment in black shorts, but Angela’s mother later found those shorts in a drawer.

Police said they looked at a number of suspects, including Legg.

On Thursday, retired Elyria police Capt. William Cameron said he knew who was to blame for Angela’s death, but he couldn’t prove it.

In his mind, that man was Legg.

“I just couldn’t find proof,” he said. “He wouldn’t confess. But he was the last person to see her, and they had had a fight, apparently. He and Angela didn’t get along too well.”

The inability to make an arrest still frustrates him decades after his retirement.

“I had everybody working on it. That was the only one in my memory that I couldn’t put all the pieces together,” he said. “But I knew that someday we’d find out. Hopefully now they can hook up the DNA and find proof.”

Multiple investigations

After Thursday’s hearing in Medina County, attention turned to Mahoning County.

There, authorities announced at a news conference that authorities had charged Legg in connection with the 1992 death of a woman whose body was found at an Austintown truck stop.

Legg was indicted on several charges, including aggravated murder, in the death of Sharon Lynn Kedzierski, 43, whose body was found April 9, 1992, at Interstate 80 and state Route 46, according to reports from the Youngstown Vindicator.

According to the state Attorney General’s office, DNA testing has linked Legg to not only the Medina County rape, but also other unsolved homicides, one of them being Kedzierski’s.

Kedzierski was not identified until 2013, when her daughter submitted a DNA sample to a national database. She was last seen by her family in Florida in 1985 and was believed to have been a prostitute.

DNA breaks cold case

Prosecutors last month went to Arizona with a plan to collect DNA and went armed with the details of the years-old rape case.

The now-nearly 40-year-old victim told authorities she hitchhiked from her then-home in Lexington to visit her boyfriend in Cleveland in 1997. On her return trip to Richland County, she said she accepted a ride from Legg at a gas station at the U.S. Route 224 exchange in Westfield Township on Interstate 71.

Authorities said Legg was an independent truck driver who drove for a company in Hinckley in Medina County.

That’s when the alleged rape occurred, but the victim first pursued charges outside the county.

Lexington police requested a rape kit at a Mansfield hospital and turned it over to the Medina County Sheriff’s Office. But the case — handled by former Prosecutor Dean Holman — wasn’t prosecuted as his staff decided the evidence wasn’t strong enough.

The case grew cold until Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson, who took office in 2017, said investigators got a break in December while technicians with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were looking for matches to DNA from the truck stop slayings.

Because there was no exact match in the bureau’s database, technicians used updated technology to search for a male family member whose DNA profile was similar to the unknown suspect’s. A match was made and an investigation pointed to Legg as a suspect not only for the truck stop slayings, but the 1997 sexual assault as well.

The familial match is not as definitive as a full DNA workup, but it’s a very useful tool in trying to identify an unknown suspect, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Wednesday.

“The Medina case gave us the key to unlock the identity,” Yost said.

Thompson subsequently reopened the rape case, focusing on Legg.

“We decided there were questions unanswered in the original investigation,” Thompson said. “I thought the decision not to prosecute was premature.”

Thompson said he and a Medina County sheriff’s detective flew to Arizona in mid-January, where they obtained a DNA sample from Legg. The new sample confirmed Legg’s link to the rape and the homicides, Thompson said.

Legg had minor brushes with the law over the years, Thompson said, but nothing that would have required him to provide a DNA sample until it was obtained in January.

Thompson said he expects the publicity surrounding Legg’s case will attract attention from other law enforcement agencies with similar unsolved slayings.

“We should not be surprised if there are other victims,” he said. “The people who do these crimes don’t quit on their own without some kind of interruption.”

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT. Contact Bob Finnan at The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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