news from the Prosecutor's Office

James E. Craft, convicted of aggravated murder in June of 2006, recently lost an appeal of his conviction
August 13, 2007

Press Release For Immediate Release August 13, 2007

(Hamilton, Ohio) James E. Craft, convicted of aggravated murder in June of 2006, recently lost an appeal of his conviction in a decision from Ohio’s Twelfth Appellate District Court of Appeals.

Craft, now age 67, is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment for the June 13, 1974 death of 15-year-old Cindy Buerelein, discovered on Beckett Road in what was then-Union Township, now West Chester Township, Butler County, Ohio, occurring after the victim was kidnaped while hitch-hiking on State Route 4 in east Hamilton. This life sentence is consecutive to another sentence of 7-to-25 years in prison, imposed for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 1988 shooting death of his wife, Ruth Craft, in Fairfield. Craft is scheduled for his first hearing for parole-release in April 2021, when he will be 81 years old.

Prosecutor Piper stated, “I personally prosecuted this guy the first time....he is a very dangerous, very violent individual....I will adamantly oppose any future parole because he is exactly the type of criminal who should be locked away forever.”

Craft’s appeal alleged: that there was insufficient proof to justify having jurisdiction in Butler County, that his jury waiver was not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made, that certain hearsay evidence was improperly admitted, that there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to justify his conviction for aggravated murder while committing a kidnaping, and that conviction for aggravated murder was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The Twelfth District rejected Craft’s claims, however, finding that:

  • Because the victim’s body was found in West Chester Township, and there was no evidence to rebut the statutory presumption that the death occurred there, the Butler County courts had jurisdiction;
  • The trial court properly accepted Craft’s written jury trial waiver, electing to be tried by the judge sitting without a jury, after determining that he understood what he was doing;
  • The rule against hearsay was not violated when the trial court admitted a document not for the truth of the matter asserted, but for its proper non-hearsay purpose of explaining a detective’s investigative undertakings as a result of the document;
  • Upon the evidence that Craft boasted to acquaintances that he had killed this girl, and evidence that Craft told detectives he was present at the scene where the victim was abducted, but told detectives he was impotent and could perform only oral sex, together with circumstantial evidence that the victim was bludgeoned to death and was discovered wearing pants that were unfastened and no panties (a blood-stained pair being found near the body), there was sufficient credible evidence to support the conviction, which was also not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Piper concluded by stating, “We knew the grounds for appeal had no merit - guys like this become jailhouse lawyers and spend their time thinking up things to file in court. While cold cases aren’t easy, Craft thought he could get away with murder, but we proved him wrong.”

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For more information contact the Prosecutor's Office at (513) 887-3474
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