Parents await justice

By Deanna Hohler Bottar Record-Courier staff write Published:

Even that wears thin as the Kent couple wades through court proceedings and legal talk concerning the 1996 death of their first-born and only son, Ray L. Weeks Jr., 45. His body was found beaten to death and lying in a ditch in Ravenna Township's McElrath neighborhood July 28, 1996.

"We still have a lot of faith in the Lord. We still have our prayers," Charlene Weeks said. "It just doesn't seem to be the same anymore."

"It seems like our prayers don't get any higher than the ceiling sometimes," her husband echoed.

This weekend, the couple is relying on the support of family and friends to help prepare for the sentencing hearing of Mark W. Cox, a 24-year-old Kent man who was tried in August for beating Weeks to death.

After a six-day, nonjury trial, Judge Joseph Kainrad found Cox guilty of aggravated assault in connection with Weeks' death. Cox will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday in Kainrad's Portage County Common Pleas Courtroom. He could face between six to 18 months in prison for the felony conviction.

Nobody has denied Cox struck Weeks in the head more than once with a large flashlight he kept for protection while the two engaged in a fight near an Interstate-76 on-ramp in Rootstown July 27, 1996.

Cox told Portage County Sheriff Duane Kaley he struck Weeks because he thought Weeks was trying to steal his car and to ward off Weeks' aggressive behavior, according to a taped statement made by Weeks that was played in court during the trial.

"I just started beating him with my Mag-lite," Cox said on the tape. "We were wrestling in that car. The car was still in gear up against the guard rail and going crazy."

Later on the tape, Cox said, "I figured I better not hit him anymore with the light because he was already bleeding, so I started hitting him with my fist and the whole time he was attacking me. I didn't want to hurt him in the car but I had to because he was trying to wreck my car or steal it."

Although Weeks' parents weren't with him during the final hours of his life, the visions and memories of the pain their son suffered sticks with them every day.

They acknowledge Weeks wasn't an angel when they discuss the pain his drug problems caused and how they tore apart his second marriage. But they say their son was a good man who dearly loved his two daughters, ages 14 and 21, and was good to his parents and family.

"You may not be perfect, but you're the best daddy a little girl could have," reads the inscription written by his oldest daughter inside the front cover of Weeks' Bible, which was a gift from his second wife on his 34th birthday.

"I can't say it's getting easier, because of the way things are going," Charlene Weeks said of her worries about the sentencing hearing. "Didn't my son's life mean anything to anyone else? Doesn't justice mean anything to anybody?"

Testimony during the trial revealed other people might have been involved in Weeks' death. Cox's attorneys repeatedly said three of Cox's friends, who did not show up to testify during the trial, further beat up Weeks after Cox left him on I-76.

A surprise witness who lived in the McElrath area told the judge she saw a group of youths kicking Weeks in the head the night before his body was found dead the next day.

Charlene and Ray Weeks Sr. agree with an assistant Cuyahoga County Coroner, who performed an autopsy on their son's body and concluded he died as a result of a sharp blow to the top of his head.

Weeks' parents still hold Cox responsible for their son's death and intend to ask Kainrad to impose the stiffest penalty possible Monday. Charlene Weeks will make a presentation in court, and several other family members, including one of Weeks' daughters, have written victim impact statements for the judge to read while considering how to sentence Cox.

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