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Former Akron man on death row dies in prison hospital

By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Donald Lavell Craig is to sentenced death in August 2006, for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of 13-year-old Malissa Thomas of Akron. Craig died at a medical center in Columbus. He was 52. (Akron Beacon Journal file photo)

Ohio death row inmate Donald Lavell Craig died last week after being hospitalized for seven months, prison officials said.

Craig, 52, had been sentenced to death for the abduction, rape and murders of two young Akron girls. He died Friday at the Franklin Medical Center, a state prison facility in Columbus.

A state prison spokeswoman said Craig had been a patient at the secured facility since May 31. She could not disclose his health condition. The cause of death is pending a ruling from the Franklin County Coroner’s Office.

Craig had been on death row since 2004, when he was convicted of raping and killing 12-year-old Roseanna Marie Davenport of Akron. He later was convicted of killing Malissa Thomas, 13, in a similar fashion.

Both cases were solved through DNA testing tying Craig to the killings years after the girls’ deaths.

Jerry Davenport, whose daughter was killed in 1996, said he learned of Craig’s death through a Victim Assistance counselor Friday. He was told Craig died of natural causes related to an undisclosed illness.

Davenport, 68, said he felt no sympathy toward Craig and that the condemned killer’s death spares him and his family several more years of appeals. Rosie, as the girl was known to family and friends, was abducted while walking home after visiting a friend.

Craig, who at the time lived with the mother of Rosie’s friend, raped and strangled the girl in February 1996.

“Hearing that he died, well that just made my day,” Davenport, of Barberton, said. “It lifts a big load off my shoulders. I’m just glad the guy’s gone and out of the picture.”

Davenport recalled the torment his family endured that winter after Rosie was missing for eight days before her body was found in the basement of a vacant house on South Maple Street. Evidence suggested the girl was bound at the hands and ankles and sexually assaulted before she was strangled.

DNA testing in 2002 linked Craig to the killing. He was sentenced to death in 2004.

Additional DNA testing in 2006 linked Craig to Malissa Thomas’ death from 1995. He received a second death sentence after that conviction in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

Malissa was abducted in January 1995 and found dead inside a vacant East Avenue house. She was sexually assaulted and strangled. Her death went unsolved for 10 years.

Her family could not be reached for comment Monday.

Craig had insisted he was innocent of the killings and likely had years of appeals pending.

“I have no sympathy for the man,” Davenport said. “He put a lot of families through a lot of misery. His death is a blessing.”

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com.



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