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Man accused of killing Strongsville teacher pleads no contest before trial begins

Posted at 11:56 AM, Oct 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 18:10:46-04

Jeffrey Scullin Jr., the man accused of killing a Strongsville teacher one year ago, agreed to plead no contest to all charges on the day his murder trial was to begin, court officials confirmed.

A plea of no contest is technically not an admission of guilt, but the judge finds the defendant guilty as charged and sentences them accordingly.

Scullin's attorney told News 5 that Scullin maintains his innocence. The no contest plea was made "for the sake of the family," Scullin's attorney said, to keep them all from reliving the tragedy in an elongated trial. 

Scullin, 20, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, making false alarms and endangering children in connection with the death of Melinda Pleskovic.

His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 29.

Jury selection for Scullin’s trial was to begin Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Court, one day after the Judge Pamela A. Baker denied a motion to suppress evidence, including a confession, to police.  The motion was denied on all grounds.

Scullin’s defense attorney had submitted the motion to suppress the evidence, claiming that law enforcement did not have probable cause to search the truck Scullin drove and that statements made by Scullin were a result of “coercive and deceptive police tactics” using the illegally seized evidence.

Scullin was one of the people who called 911 when Pleskovic's body was found inside the Blazing Star Drive home on Oct. 23, 2017. He had just returned from dinner at Applebee's with Pleskovic's husband, Bruce. Bruce's daughter — who was engaged to Scullin — worked at the Applebee's and was working that night.

Pleskovic was supposed to meet the family for dinner but never arrived.

Court records show a large tactical knife was found on the back seat of a truck Scullin said he drove the day of the killing. Police said the knife had Melinda's blood on it. DNA belonging to Scullin was on the handle.

The making false alarms charge stems from an incident on Oct. 19 when he called 911 to report a break-in. The complaint states that break-in never happened. 

The endangering children charge involves Scullin's 1-year-old daughter. The indictment says Scullin "did recklessly create a substantial risk to the health and safety" of the girl by "violating a duty of care, protection or support."

When Scullin called 911 to report that Pleskovic had been "attacked" he said his daughter was inside the home with Pleskovic and the family’s nonverbal teenage son. 

Prosecutors say Pleskovic died from multiple stab and gunshot wounds.