Man held for trial in 1999 killings of two Ohio college students

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Police rehashed in grisly detail yesterday the final moments in the lives of two Ohio college students who were slain on Memorial Day 1999, as one of their accused murderers was held for trial on two counts each of conspiracy and homicide in Washington County.

The same minutiae was recited six years ago in Ohio during the trial of Terrell Yarbrough, 25, formerly of East Liberty, but the Ohio Supreme Court decided he was tried in the wrong state.

Mr. Yarbrough was convicted and sentenced to die six years ago after that trial for the kidnapping and murder of Aaron Land, 20, of Philadelphia, and Brian Muha, 18, of Westerville, Ohio.

He and an accomplice, Nathan "Boo" Herring, formerly of Steubenville, were accused of robbing and kidnapping Mr. Land and Mr. Muha from their apartment at Franciscan University in Steubenville on May 31, 1999.

Mr. Land and Mr. Muha, who were attending summer classes at the school, were forced into Mr. Muha's Chevrolet Blazer. They were driven into Pennsylvania, then shot to death atop a hillside on Route 22 in Robinson, Washington County.

The Ohio Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions of Mr. Yarbrough and Mr. Herring in 2004. Their convictions for related offenses that occurred in Ohio, including kidnapping and robbery, were sustained.

When Mr. Yarbrough was found in Mr. Muha's stolen Blazer about 13 hours after the homicide, he was wearing the young man's rosary beads. The bodies of the two men were discovered five days later, after Mr. Yarbrough agreed to cooperate with police.

Police said during yesterday's preliminary hearing that Mr. Yarbrough acknowledged he was present during the kidnapping and murders, but said he did not commit the murders.

His attorney, Kenneth J. Haber, asked Washington County District Judge William Pelkey to reject the homicide charges, but Mr. Pelkey ordered Mr. Yarbrough held on both conspiracy and homicide charges. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Washington County District Attorney John C. Pettit said a plea bargain is a possibility, although none has been discussed. He said he plans to try Mr. Herring on the same charges after Mr. Yarbrough's case is resolved. Mr. Yarbrough will be housed in the Washington County Detention Center until the trial, expected next year.


Janice Crompton can be reached at jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 724-223-0156.


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