Richard Klein, his wife Kasey and their two boys, Ayden and Anthony went on a camping trip the night of June 3, 2011 and pitched their tent just 24 feet away from the Muskingum River. When they awoke the next morning, the body of 3-year-old Ayden was floating in the river and two-year-old Anthony has never been found.
The Klein’s were tried together in 2012 and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and endangering children. Both were sentenced to 12 years in prison but were eventually granted separate retrials. Richard Klein’s trial began Monday afternoon.
"This case isn’t about what your kids do. It’s what parents do and don’t do to protect their kids," said Bob Smith, the assistant prosecutor.
Klein took the stand just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Klein described the day before the boys went missing and said his family went fishing, cooked dinner and eventually all went to bed sleeping side-by-side in their tent. Klein’s attorney asked him what types of activities the boys and him enjoyed.
"Camping, fishing.. I took the boys trapping with me, I took them deer scouting with me. They were my.. they were my little sidekicks," said Klein.
In the prosecution’s closing arguments, Smith told the jury that Klein recklessly created a substantial risk and adversely ignored the obvious risks associated with taking a two-year-old and three-year-old with Cerebral Palsy camping so close to the river. He said the boys’ deaths were caused by a combination of the Klein’s decisions.
Smith told the jury, "It’s natural that you should feel sympathetic towards Richard. He’s lost a lot. He’s had his world turned upside down by the events of June 4th, 2011. Yesterday we talked, and we all agreed that sympathy for the defendant has no place in this equation or in your deliberation."
Sam Shamansky, Klein’s defense lawyer, told the jury that it was up to them to make sure the law is followed, that justice be served and said he knows they will make the right decision.
"This was a mistake, this was an accident. Call it God’s will, call it whatever you want, it was a tragic accident. Mr. Smith says, ‘guess what, somebody’s gotta pay,’ That’s what this case boils down to for the government, ‘somebody’s gotta pay,’" said Shamansky.
At 11:03 a.m. Thursday, after deliberating for two days and almost 10 hours, the jury consisting of five men and seven women reached a verdict and acquitted Richard Klein of two counts of child endangerment and two counts of involuntary manslaughter. James Crannell, a juror on the case said there was a lot of passion and emotion during the discussion and said no matter what the community thinks, he’s proud of his decision.
"I think justice was served and I think people out in the community may agree with the verdict or may disagree with the verdict but it was not done without extreme effort and thought," said Crammell.
Shamansky believes what made the difference in this trial was Klein’s testimony and that he was able to give his side of the story.
"It seemed as if the overwhelming consensus was they wanted more, now there wasn’t anything more. One woman said, ‘we wish you would have put on character about what a great father Richard was. We had to just take his word for it.’ They want more information," said Shamansky.
Klein walked out of the Muskingum County Court House carrying his belongings as a free man and walked into the arms of his two aunts and mother. Klein said he has a lot of rebuilding to do and says he knows it’s going to be very difficult.
Klein said, "Watch them babies for God’s sake. You can’t change what happened but you can learn from your mistakes."