Brett Hartmann

Summit County, Ohio
Date of Crime:  September 9, 1997

Brett Hartmann was sentenced to death for the murder of Winda Snipes. Snipes was brutally beaten, strangled, and stabbed over 135 times. Her throat was cut and her hands were cut off. The cord with which she was strangled was taken from a clock that stopped at 4:38. This evidence suggests she was murdered at 4:38 a.m. or 4:38 p.m.

Hartmann had sex with Snipes at about 3 a.m. on the day of her murder. Snipes received a phone call at 3:31 a.m., which she did not answer. A few minutes later, she asked Hartmann to leave because she said her boyfriend was coming over. After Hartmann left, Snipes received another phone call at 3:36 a.m. which she did not answer either. At Hartmann's trial, Detective Joseph Urbank testified that the calls came from a pay phone in Kennmore, which is a few towns away. Later investigation showed that they came from a pay phone less than 100 yards away from Snipes' apartment, and almost in a direct line of sight of the apartment.

Winda was later seen on the streets of Akron and had picked up her paycheck. Hartmann found her murdered in her apartment. Because he did not want to be arrested for outstanding traffic warrants, he removed a shirt of his that was at the apartment as well as some trash he had left there the day before. He did not dispose of the shirt. He anonymously made two calls to 911. Police arrived at the scene at 11 p.m.

While police were at the scene, Hartmann contacted them and informed them that he knew Winda and had been with her. He was questioned the next day and as an officer was bringing him home, the officer was instructed to arrest Hartmann for the outstanding traffic warrants. Hartmann then told the officer about finding the body, his 911 calls, and taking his shirt. He consented to a search of his home.

Witnesses have reported that a month or so prior to Snipes' death, her boyfriend Jeffrey Nichols had threatened to “cut the bitch up, slit her throat.” Police dismissed Nichols as a suspect, because of his alibi. Allegedly, he was at home drinking beer with a friend. The brutality of Snipes' murder suggested it was committed by someone who was intimate with her and had reason to feel great rage towards her. Hartmann has phone records indicating he was home talking to a girlfriend at the time of the murder. Hartmann was checked the day after the murder and he had no defense wounds or other marks of injury that could be construed as having occurred during the crime.

At Hartmann's trial, testimony was presented that crime scene evidence was not tested for fingerprints, but reports later surfaced indicating that the evidence was tested for fingerprints. The results are still not known. The state's case was marked by deliberate misleading statements, perjured testimony, sloppy investigation, and sloppy processing of evidence. The coroner testified that Snipes' murder could have occurred at 4:38 a.m. or p.m., when his own reports, hidden from the defense showed that the a.m. time frame was not a possibility. Hartmann's public defense team did little to defend him. They never asked or accepted Hartmann's side of events, saying that they preferred to let the evidence tell them what happened, and then relied on the state's evidence for trial.

Hartmann's prosecutor, Judy Bandy, has a record of misconduct. Regarding a later case, a 2000 Beacon-Journal article stated, “In Bandy's zeal to win, evidence was hidden or otherwise kept from defense counsel, that individual defense attorneys were then targeted for investigation and threats. If this were an isolated case, that would be one thing, but defense attorneys had been alleging Bandy's tactics for years.”

Other officials are apparently no less corrupt. Hartmann's co-counsel was sentenced in 2002 to four years in prison for defrauding clients from 1993 on. Hartmann's trial judge, Michael Callahan, was implicated in a murder investigation. A prostitute informant told her handler that a guy picked her up, took her to a room in the courthouse and gave her cocaine in exchange for oral sex. She pointed out the chambers she was brought to and the car in which she was picked up. Both belonged to Judge Callahan. Six days later she was found murdered.  [5/07]


Reference:  End Death Penalty for Brett Hartmann

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Eastern Ohio Cases