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Judge grants gag order in case against Clermont County man who confessed to killing his 3 sons

The defense requested the court restrict what details prosecutors could reveal outside the courtroom
Doerman in court again.jpg
Doerman in court again wide view .jpg
Posted at 8:27 AM, Jul 05, 2023

Editor's note: This story contains information that is difficult to read.

The Clermont County man who told investigators he killed his three young sons appeared in court Wednesday morning for a pre-trial hearing that was largely procedural.

Chad Doerman pleaded not guilty in court last month to the 21 charges against him after confessing to executing his three boys — Clayton, Hunter and Chase — with a rifle.

He is currently sitting in jail without bond.

In court Wednesday, Doerman's defense team requested funding from the court to hire non-legal counsel, including mental health experts and other investigators.

Prosecutors signed off on that request allowing the judge to adjourn the pre-trial hearing and enter into a private session with the defense to discuss those details.

A protective order that the defense requested was also discussed.

The motion, originally filed on June 26, requested the court restrict what details prosecutors could reveal outside the courtroom. It did not ask the court to protect Doerman physically, but rather protect the integrity of the case by implementing a gag order.

The motion stems from a statement given by Clermont County Prosecutor Mark Tekulve to WCPO and other media outlets following Doerman's indictment hearing.

"This is a capital murder case and it is my goal to see (Doerman) executed," Tekulve had said. The defense claims that statement was "inflammatory and prejudicial."

On July 3, prosecutors responded to the defense's protective order request arguing that claim.

In court Wednesday, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Terpstra raised questions, suggesting the motion was too broad.

"'Extrajudicial statements by means of public communication.' I don't know what that means," she said to Judge Richard Ferenc.

Terpstra said the prosecution was not opposed to an order restricting the parties from speaking with the media outside what is said in open court but requested Ferenc craft a new, less broad version of the one submitted by the defense.

Ferenc agreed the motion was too broad and spent the rest of the morning working to narrow it down.

"Obviously, everybody is going to be making comments in open court on the record and that's appropriate," he said. "Obviously, nothing in this order would restrict the state's obligation to release public records. That's not the issue. This is not directed at the media at all. There's no restrictions on what the media can report and how they can report it."

Ferenc issued the following order of protection Wednesday afternoon:

Entry Granting Protective Order by WCPO 9 News on Scribd

Doerman's next pre-trial court date is scheduled for September 22 at 11 a.m.

WCPO was going to live stream the court appearance like we did last month but when our photojournalist arrived, the court said they would not allow a live stream.

Last month, the prosecution revealed additional details that took place at his home on Laurel Lindale Road in Monroe Township on June 15.

Clermont County Prosecutor Mark Tekulve said Doerman's massacre started inside the home where he shot his 4-year-old, Hunter, twice. He then walked outside and shot 7-year-old Clayton as the boy tried to run away, according to Tekulve.

Clayton was injured after being shot from behind. Tekulve said Doerman then walked up to him and shot him two more times. Doerman then ripped 3-year-old Chase from his mother's arms and shot him, according to Tekulve.

Clayton, Hunter and Chase

After court, Tekulve said his goal is to "have this man executed."

"I can only imagine the terror these little boys felt and experienced as their father, their protector was murdering them," said Tekulve. "Unfortunately, their mother saw this. You can imagine the immense trauma and terror that she experienced and we will do the utmost in my office to see this defendant never sees the light of day again."

Many in the community tell WCPO they agree with Tekulve.

"If there's ever a crime that deserves the death penalty this would definitely be the crime," said school bus driver Kellie Day. "It's unfathomable to me."

A man who lives just down the street from the courthouse where Doerman was arraigned said he still feels sick to his stomach thinking about what happened to the little boys.

"(Doerman) definitely deserves the death penalty, no questions asked," Chuck Hannah said.

Defense Attorney Mark Krumbein, however, said that even if Doerman is convicted and sentenced to death, the system of execution in Ohio has slowed to near inactivity.

The last person executed in Ohio was in 2018 as Gov. Mike DeWine publicly opposed the death penalty and execution drugs became scarce.

"There could be another governor in the future that might say, hey, let's speed things up, new drugs that cause people to die that are more accessible, some of the problems could end," Krumbein said.

In March, Attorney General Dave Yost called the system "broken" in a plea to the legislature to get the system going.

Krumbein said regardless of final execution, Doerman would remain on death row if sentenced.

"It's still in full effect," he said, "and it's still the law in Ohio."

Doerman in court again.jpg

Doerman was initially charged with three counts of aggravated murder after confessing to the killings.

Seven days after the shooting, a Clermont County Grand Jury returned a 21-count indictment against Doerman including nine counts of aggravated murder, eight counts of kidnapping and four counts of felonious assault.

Because of their circumstance specifications, each aggravated murder count carries the death penalty.

In court, the judge asked Doerman if he understood all the charges against him. He calmly answered, "Yes your honor." At his initial court appearance, just one day after the murders, Doerman was seen crying as prosecutors laid out the gruesome details of the shootings.

Many were confused as to how three deaths could result in nine murder charges against the same person.

"The Clermont County Prosecutor's Office threw the kitchen sink at this guy, and wanted to cover all their bases," said local defense attorney Clyde Bennett.

Bennett said legally speaking, a person can commit aggravated murder in multiple ways against the same victim and each one is a different charge potentially leading to a conviction.

"In the act of kidnapping a person, you killed someone, and then you kidnapped a person to kill them, and then that person is under 13. That's three ways you can get to aggravated murder," he said.

Three different charges of aggravated murder for each of the three children added up to nine charges, though Bennett said Doerman could only be sentenced for one per child.

With Doerman's fate in the hands of the courts, the boys' family asks the community to focus on three young lives lost, but not forgotten.

Rachel Brown, the boys' aunt and their mother's sister, shared more photos of her nephews. All of them have one thing in common: bright, smiling faces.

"I saw several pictures of them playing sports and playing ball and it just touches home how precious each one of those boys were," Day said.

Chase, Hunter and Clayton

The obituary for the brothers encapsulates the memories and legacies the family wants the community to remember, Brown said.

"Clayton, fondly known as Clayton Man, loved making Lego creations, riding his go-kart, telling jokes, singing and laughing while loving his best dog pal, Gatlin....Hunter, fondly known as Hunter Dog, loved going to the creek and catching frogs and his love of baseball extended beyond the ballfield to his bed, an attachment like an extra arm to connect him to his ball and glove as he slept....Chase, fondly known as Chasers, loved swinging on swings and couldn’t wait to be a baseball player like his brothers. He loved playing with Dinos and pretending to be a superhero. He was the best cuddler, wanting his Mama to stay close by to give her many hugs. He will forever be known as, "Mama's Baby," the obituary reads in part.

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