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Tragic times continued

December 30, 2012
By DEANNE JOHNSON - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

(Editor's note: This story was determined by the Morning Journal news staff to be the No. 3 Top Story for 2012.)

LISBON - The last name Todd frequently appeared in Morning Journal headlines during 2012 - a year full of tragedy for that family.

First, 24-year-old Miranda Todd was convicted of murder for killing her 7-month-old baby in 2010.

Then in December, Miranda Todd's mother, Melinda Todd, was found murdered in her Salem Township home and another of Miranda Todd's children, 5-year-old Cole Reed, was bludgeoned at the same time Melinda Todd was killed, but he survived. The cause of Melinda Todd's death was determined to be blunt force trauma.

Two young girls, Melinda Todd's daughters, found her and Reed in the state Route 45 home after school on Dec. 3 with injuries investigators at first believed to be gunshot wounds. Reed survived and was cared for at Akron Children's Hospital where he underwent surgery. The sheriff's department reported he is now in the custody of Children Services.

As of Dec. 28, no charges had been filed in the case, leading Columbiana County residents to fear that this homicide may be added to the long list of unsolved murders in the county.

Cole Reed had lived with his grandmother, Melinda Todd, and considered her to be his mother. According to Melinda Todd's testimony at the trial of her daughter, Miranda abandoned Cole when he was about 2 weeks of age. Miranda Todd had reportedly left the child with her mother when she went out and then called her mother to say she would not be back.

The trial of Miranda Todd lasted nearly two weeks and led to her conviction on charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter and endangering children. Judge Scott Washam sentenced Miranda Todd to 18 years to life in prison for the death of her infant son Derek Dennison.

Dennison, was taken to Salem Community Hospital by his mother and one of her live-in friends, Kayli Stiffler, after he was unresponsive on July 22, 2010. He was declared dead shortly after midnight on July 23 after hospital staff were unable to revive him. The boy had numerous bruises of various ages on him, as well as internal injuries, including two skull fractures and 11 rib fractures.

The trial brought out a story of Stiffler, Steven Van Pelt and Miranda Todd involved in a relationship that summer, which included three-way sexual encounters, drug use and jealous arguments. Mysterious bruises reportedly found on the baby during that time went unchecked by doctors and unreported to authorities until Dennison's death.

Prior to Miranda's conviction, Assistant Prosecutor Timothy McNicol had summed up the case for the jury, which took about 30 minutes to reach the guilty verdict.

"You've paid more attention to Derek in these two weeks, two years after he died, than anyone did during his short life," McNicol told the jury. "I urge you to return a verdict consistent with the evidence ... Derek's life was worth more than a party, a paycheck and a meal ticket or a boyfriend."

Miranda Todd continued to proclaim her innocence on the day she was sentenced, claiming Derek Dennison's real killer remained free. Her attorneys filed an appeal, which is still pending in the 7th District Court of Appeals.



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