IM this article to a friend!

May 14, 2003

Charges in death of woman

From: Akron Beacon Journal, OH - May 14, 2003

Akron teen accused of raping, strangling victim two years ago
By Andale Gross
Beacon Journal staff writer

A 16-year-old deaf teen-ager has been charged with raping and fatally strangling a mentally ill woman two years ago.

Akron detectives acknowledge a struggle to communicate with Jerron Johnson, but they say it helps that the case against him is driven by strong physical evidence.

Johnson is accused of murdering 45-year-old Jean Zienka on Oct. 5, 2001, in her Akers Avenue home. He is charged with delinquency by reason of aggravated murder and rape. He is being held at the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center.

According to Detective James Pasheilich, Johnson is from East Akron and was living on Black Street in the same neighborhood as Zienka at the time she was killed. However, the motive and relationship between the teen and the victim is not clear, the detective said.

Zienka suffered from schizophrenia and had several health problems that included diabetes, family members have said.

Police were investigating Johnson in conjunction with three other crimes and recognized similarities between some of those cases and Zienka's death, said Lt. David Whiddon.

In an incident in November on Seventh Avenue, Johnson is accused of choking and raping a woman, and the victim survived.

''He has a pattern,'' Detective Bertina King said. ''The incidents are similar in nature.''

DNA evidence at the scenes has been key in the investigation, the detectives said.

Pasheilich, Whiddon and King worked together on the case along with Sgt. John Callahan. The officers said it is satisfying to have an arrest after two years.

Zienka's sister, Lynn Nabors, said the arrest brings back all the memories of the crime but is a relief.

''I'm glad they came to justice on this, if that's the situation,'' said Nabors, who lives in Wellington in Lorain County. ''It's been a long time of waiting and wondering.''

Johnson has been in custody since March. He was arrested in connection with a February peeping incident in which a 13-year-old girl was spied on through her window on Winans Avenue.

In addition to murder and rape counts in Zienka's death, the teen is charged with:

* Attempted aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, felonious assault and two counts of rape in the Seventh Avenue incident.

* Attempted rape and abduction in an Oct. 15, 2001, incident involving a woman on Johnston Street.

* Voyeurism in the Winans Avenue incident.

The crimes occurred in two neighborhoods in East Akron. Johnson's most recent address is on Chittenden Street.

Police said the victims gave similar descriptions of their attacker -- including that he talked as though he couldn't hear and that they couldn't understand what he was saying.

''These are some of the most serious charges you can get,'' said Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Corley. ''We're going to file a bindover, of course, to have him tried as an adult.''

Johnson was 15 at the time of the murder.

His lawyer, Annette Powers, said she has met with Johnson and an interpreter. She said she still is reviewing the case and getting acquainted with the teen.

''He was born deaf, I believe,'' Powers said.

The teen lives with a grandmother and also has other relatives in Akron, she said.

© 2003 Beacon Journal and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.