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Jury decides death penalty for man convicted of murdering couple at car dealership

Joseph McAlpin
Joseph McAlpin
Posted at 12:38 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 17:53:12-04

CLEVELAND — A jury has recommended the death penalty for the man convicted of murdering a local couple during a robbery at their car dealership in 2017.

Joseph McAlpin was convicted last month on four counts of aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of kidnapping, four counts of felonious assault and a slew of other charges.

The jury deliberated for less than hour. The decision comes in the second day of the sentencing phase of the trial and follows a morning of sometimes emotional closing arguments by both sides in which McAlpin again maintained his innocence.

"I am innocent," said McAlpin. "I will continue to say that, continue to say that, and I will continue to say that until my fight is finished. No matter if it's me getting on the gurney having something stuff up my veins and taking that penalty, or if it's me coming back in this courtroom, reiterating it all again, doing it as round two."

But Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley called the evidence against McAlpin "overwhelming."

"We had him in that spot, committing those acts so many different ways, with so much evidence" said O'Malley. "I think he's got a long, uphill fight if he thinks he'll get this sentence or this conviction overturned."

Investigators say McAlpin and two others went to Mr. Cars on East 185th Street to steal cars. The deadlership's owners, Trina and Michael Kuznik and their pet dog Axel were all shot and killed.

The crime rocked the Collinwood neighborhood. Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek representing Collinwood. He was in court as the judge read the jury's recommendation.

"The evidence was overwhelming, he was there," said Polensek. "He did it. And to stand in the courtroom and to constantly deny it, and then sympathize with the family, you rotten SOB, you got what you deserve."

Judge Brian Corrigan will formally sentence McAlpin on May 21.

RELATED: Jury finds man guilty of murdering couple at Cleveland car dealership

Andrew Keener and Jerome Diggs were also arrested in connection with the murder. Keener pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in February. Diggs has yet to go to trial.

A few weeks before her death, Trina Kuznik spoke to 5 On Your Side Investigator Sarah Buduson about her frustrations with the Cleveland Division of Police.

RELATED: On Your Side investigation reveals slow 911 response times by Cleveland police

Kuznik said it often took police officers several hours to respond to the 911 calls she made after break-ins at her business.

MORE: Continuing coverage of the McAlpin murder trial