By Dean Narciso
Brandon Ivy was calm, soft-spoken and deferential to the Delaware County judge who presided over his trial for the death of his girlfriend by strangulation.
But just a day into the week-long trial, Ivy cast off his court-appointed attorneys, asking Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge David Gormley to allow him to represent himself on charges of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, menacing by stalking in the Nov. 22 death of 53-year-old Stephanie Hunter.
His defense strategy proved insufficient Tuesday, as a jury found him guilty on all charges after deliberating about five hours. After 20 witnesses and almost 170 exhibits, Ivy had little left to say.
During cross-examination, Ivy, 28, repeatedly challenged medical experts, focusing on an intubation tube used to try and open Hunter’s airway the day she died. He implied that the emergency medical procedure was botched because the initial attempt to insert the tube into her windpipe didn’t work.
In closing arguments, Ivy conceded that he he choked Hunter, but didn’t kill her.
“Yes, I am the cause of choking Stephanie… but the paramedics killed her,” Ivy said. “She needed oxygen to the brain. She needed CPR.”
But the experts, including Dr. William Smock, a nationally recognized authority on strangulation, testified that Hunter never had a chance. Her airway was badly swollen and bruised due to Ivy’s deadly and prolonged choke-hold on her neck that lasted for at least 60 seconds, Smock said, more than 50 seconds longer than it takes for someone to pass out.
Delaware County prosecutors maintained that Ivy was a controlling, jealous and dangerous boyfriend who would do anything to ensure that Hunter didn’t leave him.
Ivy’s initial defense was that he “never intended to kill or even harm Stephanie Hunter,” dismissed attorney Christopher Soon said last week, describing how Hunter initiated the confrontation inside her residence.
Ivy repeated that defense, adding details. He told the jury that Hunter entered their shared apartment bathroom and accused him of soiling the toilet, and then took a swing at him.
“I grabbed her,” he said, claiming that Hunter might have been pretending to pass out.
“I saw her face turning blue. That’s when I knew Stephanie was serious. I placed her down. She was still gagging.”
Ivy then fled on his bicycle to get help, he said.
Hunter, and Ivy had lived together in Chicago before moving to central Ohio about three years ago. Their relationship was fraught with fights, police visits and protection orders, the prosecution said, culminating with Hunter’s decision to leave Ivy — which enraged him.
Ivy showed little emotion, dropping his head when detailed pictures were shown of Hunter’s bruises and bloodied eyelids.
Gormley repeatedly scolded Ivy during the trial for not focusing on facts and relevant evidence.
Last November, Ivy had appeared before Gormley on charges including assault and abduction and violating a protection order in another domestic dispute with Hunter.
In that case, prosecutor Schiffel pleaded for Ivy to be imprisoned. Hunter, however, reconsidered and asked for leniency, saying Ivy was “good-hearted.”
Gormley sentenced Ivy on Nov. 14 to community control on reduced charges of burglary and violating a protection order. Charges of abduction and assault were dismissed.
Eight days later, Hunter was dead.
It wasn’t the first time that Hunter had a change of heart and pleaded for Ivy’s leniency in a domestic case.
In February 2019, when applying for a five-year protection order from Ivy, Hunter told a Delaware County domestic relations magistrate that Ivy had beaten and bruised her, “destroyed” her apartment, threw a bucket of water on her as she slept and threatened to harm her family and her pets.
“I am afraid for my life,” she wrote in her petition for the protection order, which was granted shortly afterward.
But five months later, Hunter changed her mind, requesting that the petition be terminated.
Delaware County Domestic Relations Judge Randall Fuller signed off on her request. Fuller has previously called the incident “the worst nightmare scenario,” as court officials try to be sensitive and fair to everyone involved.
Ivy is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 10.
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