william sapp
william sapp

William Sapp was sentenced to death by the State of Ohio for a series of sexual assaults and murder. According to court documents William Sapp would sexually assault two children, Phree Morrow, age 12, and Martha Leach, age 11 then murdered the two kids. A year later William Sapp would sexually assault and murder a woman Belinda Anderson. Soon after William Sapp would sexually assault and attempt to murder another victim. William Sapp would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.

Ohio Death Row Inmate List

William Sapp 2021 Information

Number A337278

DOB 03/22/1962

Gender Male Race White

Admission Date 10/04/1996

Institution Chillicothe Correctional Institution


William Sapp More News

On August 22, 1992, appellant, William K. Sapp, raped and murdered Phree Morrow, age 12, and Martha Leach, age 11.   A year and 17 days later, Sapp raped and murdered Belinda Anderson, an adult woman.   About three months after he murdered Anderson, Sapp raped and attempted to murder another adult woman, Hazel Pearson.   Sapp was sentenced to death for the murders of Phree, Martha, and Anderson.

The Murders of Phree Morrow and Martha Leach

{¶ 2} Phree Morrow and Martha Leach lived around the corner from each other in Springfield and became friends in the summer of 1992.   On the afternoon of August 22, 1992, the girls went to Schuler’s Bakery together.   At about the same time, two friends of Sapp’s, David Marciszewski and David’s stepson, John Balser, were seen near the bakery.   Martha entered the bakery with an unidentified male.   She purchased some cookies and doughnuts.   The unidentified man paid for her order, and the two of them left the bakery.

{¶ 3} Ralph DePriest, David Marciszewski’s nephew, witnessed the murders of Phree and Martha when he was 14.   On August 22, 1992, DePriest was at the Marciszewski residence with Wanda Marciszewski, who was David Marciszewski’s wife and Balser’s mother.   Balser entered the house and said, “Mom, I’m in some trouble.”   DePriest and Wanda went outside and got into a van with David Marciszewski and Christopher Bibbs.   They drove to an area near a pond, which lay behind the bakery.

{¶ 4} When they arrived, DePriest saw Sapp kneeling beside two girls who were lying unconscious on the ground.   DePriest described the girls as being “all messed up.”   DePriest watched as Sapp, David Marciszewski, Jamie Turner, and Balser rubbed the girls’ genitals.   Sapp made DePriest participate.   After they had done this “for a while,” Wanda told them to kill the girls.

{¶ 5} Balser and David hit the girls with rocks.   DePriest saw Sapp pick up a rock and lift it over his head.   DePriest turned away before Sapp brought the rock down.

{¶ 6} Sapp threatened to kill DePriest if he ever told anyone what he had seen.   Sapp, Balser, David Marciszewski, and Turner then moved the bodies a short distance from the pond to a nearby hill.   DePriest helped them cover the bodies with skids.

 {¶ 7} The next day, the bodies of Phree and Martha were found in the vicinity of a pond behind Penn Street in Springfield, near Schuler’s Bakery.   Wooden pallets, branches, and leaves covered the bodies.   Phree had a rock on her head.

{¶ 8} In the part of a large storm sewer known locally as the “Lion’s Cage,” police found a bicycle, a brick, and two pairs of shorts.   Phree Morrow’s mother identified one pair of shorts as the pair Phree had been wearing when last seen.   Another witness identified the bicycle as the one she had seen in the possession of two girls outside Schuler’s Bakery on August 22, 1992.

{¶ 9} The shorts were examined by Timothy Shepherd, a police forensic criminalist.   According to Shepherd, the shorts had not been torn from Phree’s body;  rather, someone had “disassembled” them by cutting the seams with a sharp instrument.

{¶ 10} Autopsies revealed that both Phree and Martha had died of blunt head trauma.   Phree had been struck in the head at least six times, Martha three.   The skulls of both girls had been fractured by blows having an impact equivalent to that of a free fall from a second-story window onto a concrete surface.   Both girls also had bruises on their legs and torsos.   Sperm was found on swabs taken from each girl’s vagina.

{¶ 11} David and Wanda Marciszewski, John Balser, Jamie Turner, and Christopher Bibbs were all convicted of crimes arising from the murders of Phree and Martha.   However, Sapp’s involvement did not come to light until 1996.   In September of that year, sheriff’s detectives from Jacksonville, Florida came to Springfield to question Sapp about an unrelated matter.   Sapp made incriminating admissions about an assault on Hazel Pearson, whose pants had been cut off in the same distinctive manner as Phree’s shorts.

{¶ 12} Sapp then became a suspect in the Morrow-Leach murders.   A blood sample obtained from Sapp was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for DNA comparison with the vaginal swabs taken from Phree and Martha.   The FBI laboratory determined that the DNA loci obtained from the semen on both swabs matched the DNA loci obtained from a sample of Sapp’s blood.   An FBI expert concluded that, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, Sapp was the source of the semen found in both Phree and Martha.

{¶ 13} On April 2, 1997, Sapp was brought to Springfield police headquarters for questioning.   Over the course of two days, Sapp confessed at length to the crimes charged in this case.   He gave the following account of the Morrow-Leach murders:

{¶ 14} On August 22, 1992, Sapp was with David Marciszewski, Balser, Turner, and Bibbs.   The five of them ended up at a pond located behind a business on Penn Street, not far from Schuler’s Bakery.   Sapp claimed that the girls were  already at the pond when he and his friends arrived.   According to Sapp, Phree called Turner “ugly” and Balser a “retard.”   Then Sapp punched Phree in the head.

{¶ 15} Sapp cut Phree’s shorts off her body with a buck knife, an act he later referred to as “leaving [his] name.”   He next made Phree roll over onto her stomach and forced Martha to lie on top of her.   Then Sapp raped Martha.

{¶ 16} After the rape, Sapp and the others took turns hitting Phree in the head with rocks.   After each perpetrator had taken a turn, Sapp heard Phree gurgle.   Sapp lifted a large rock over his head and-as Sapp described it-“threw it down, trying to send [it] on the other side of the world.”   He later explained to police that he struck the second blow specifically “[b]ecause she wasn’t dead yet.”   Sapp told police he used a “boulder” to strike the second blow because “[i]f it’s gonna be done, it’s gonna be done right.”

{¶ 17} Next, Sapp hit Martha in the head with a rock.   After that, he raped Phree.   Sapp and the others then moved the girls and covered them with leaves, branches, and discarded pallets.   They took the clothing and bicycles belonging to Phree and Martha and placed them in the storm sewer.

{¶ 18} After the interrogation, Sapp was held in the Clark County Jail. On April 17, 1997, a deputy sheriff overheard Sapp tell another inmate:  “I’m gonna make national news.  * * * I’ve killed several people, but mostly it’s about two little girls.  * * * But God forgives me for it now because I’ve been saved.”

{¶ 19} On June 29, 1998, Sapp stated in the presence of two deputy sheriffs that he had “killed a couple of people” or that he had “killed people before.”

{¶ 20} During June and July 1998, Sapp had several conversations with another Clark County Jail inmate, Johnny Saxour.   According to Saxour, Sapp said that “whenever he got for [sic] the taste of blood, * * * he always went out, took care of his problems.”

{¶ 21} Sapp told Saxour different versions of the Morrow-Leach murders.   In one version, Sapp claimed that he “went with” the mother of one of the girls but became angry because the mother started seeing another man.   Sapp told Saxour that “he tried to mess around with the other little girl and she didn’t want him messing around, so * * * she smacked him and then this other little girl jumped on his back and then * * * Turner * * * pulled her off of his back and throwed her down on the ground and took his foot and stuck it on the side of her head.”

{¶ 22} In another conversation, Sapp told Saxour that he had tried to have sex with one of the girls.   When he was rebuffed, “he took and started beating this girl * * * and that’s when they * * * started taking bricks and things and * * * caving their heads and stuff in * * *.”

 The Murder of Belinda Anderson

{¶ 23} On September 8, 1993, Belinda Anderson of Bellefontaine was staying with her sister Debra in Springfield.   At 5:20 p.m. on September 8, Debra left the house to visit her parents.   When she returned at 6:00 p.m., she found that Belinda had gone out, leaving a note.   Debra never saw her sister again.

{¶ 24} Nearly two years later, on July 8, 1995, Belinda Anderson’s body was found buried under the dirt floor of a garage in Springfield.   At the time of Anderson’s disappearance in 1993, the house and garage had been vacant for several years.   Anderson’s body had been placed in a plastic bag and buried in a shallow grave with the feet sticking out.   She was wearing a shirt, shoes, and socks, but no pants.

{¶ 25} An autopsy showed that Anderson had died of multiple trauma to her head and neck.   She had three chop wounds and a bruise on her face, and some of her facial bones were fractured.   A blow to the back of Anderson’s head had lacerated her scalp and abraded the outer layer of the skull underneath.   Her larynx was broken.   Each of these injuries had been inflicted before death.   Because of the body’s decomposition, it was not possible to test for the presence of sperm or semen.

{¶ 26} In his confession to the Springfield police, Sapp said that he had met Belinda Anderson for the first time on the day he killed her.   According to Sapp, Anderson agreed to have sex with him for $40 and led him to a garage, which they entered through a hole in the back.   Sapp claimed that he had paid Anderson in advance and that she began to perform fellatio on him.   But then she stopped, saying that she had changed her mind and “wasn’t doing the rest.”   When Sapp demanded a refund, Anderson started to leave.   He reached down to grab her, and she hit him.

{¶ 27} Sapp grabbed Anderson by the throat.   She resisted.   He threw her against a wall.   He picked up a length of pipe and hit Anderson in the head.   She “dropped.”   Then she started to get up, threatening to call the police.

{¶ 28} Sapp felt “like [he] was on fire inside.”   He picked up a piece of metal and hit Anderson several times because “she wouldn’t shut up.”   Sapp described to police how Anderson “gurgle[d].”  He remarked, “[H]ow many times you gotta hit a person before they stop * * * trying to get up[?]”

{¶ 29} Sapp claimed he never had sex with Anderson, except for the allegedly consensual fellatio.   But he also told police that he had been determined to “get what [he] paid for” or get a refund.   In any event, he cut Anderson’s pants off with a hunting knife, reasoning, “I done bought ’em, so I took ’em off for her.”   He “didn’t even ask her.”

 {¶ 30} After beating Anderson and cutting her pants off, Sapp fled.   A few days later, he returned.   He put a plastic bag over Anderson’s head and another over her feet.   Then he buried her in the garage.

{¶ 31} Sapp later told Johnny Saxour about this crime.   He told Saxour that “he just got a taste for blood and he * * * ran into this woman and * * * started beating on her * * * and took her in the garage to do what he had to do with her and then he stuck her underneath the floor.”   Sapp told Saxour that he raped her and that he “used a jar of Vaseline on her.”

The Attempted Murder of Hazel Pearson

{¶ 32} On December 7, 1993, Hazel Pearson and her boyfriend, “Butch” Morgan, encountered a former girlfriend of Morgan’s in a Springfield bar.   Pearson became upset and left.

{¶ 33} The next morning, employees at a packaging company in Springfield saw Pearson sitting in a nearby parking lot.   When they realized that she was hurt, they went to her aid.   She was nude from the waist down.   One of the employees asked her if she had been raped, and she nodded.   Paramedics were summoned to take Pearson to the hospital.   As they lifted her into the ambulance, numerous cuts on her body opened, and she screamed in pain.

{¶ 34} Pearson’s throat had been cut from ear to ear, and she had a deep stab wound in her upper abdomen.   She had an open wound at the base of her nose, multiple cheekbone and jaw fractures, and a fracture of the orbital floor, the bone at the base of the eye.   Underneath her lacerated scalp, she had a fractured skull and serious brain injuries.   Her face was swollen and badly bruised.   Her whole body was black and blue, and stones were embedded in her flesh.

{¶ 35} When Pearson woke up in the hospital, she noticed that her watch was missing.   She recalled crawling toward some railroad tracks but could remember nothing else that had happened after she left the bar.

{¶ 36} Police found a pair of jeans in the parking lot near the spot where Pearson had been found.   Springfield police criminalist Timothy Shepherd examined the jeans and concluded that they had been “disassembled” in the same manner as Phree Morrow’s shorts.   Police also found bloodstains underneath a nearby loading dock.   In 1994, the custodian of a church in Springfield found a knife stuck into the church roof.

{¶ 37} On September 26, 1996, at the Clark County Jail, Sapp mentioned the Hazel Pearson case to detectives from Jacksonville, Florida.   Claiming that he had acted through another personality, Sapp mentioned that he had cut Pearson’s throat, that he had taken her watch, and that he had thrown the knife onto the church roof.

 {¶ 38} In his subsequent confession to the Springfield police, Sapp admitted that he had raped Pearson and had tried to kill her.   Sapp told detectives that, on the day he met Pearson, he was “pretty f * * * ed up” from drink and pills.   He saw Pearson crying on a street corner and approached her.   Pearson complained to Sapp that her boyfriend was in a bar with another woman;  Pearson had walked out of the bar after “some words and a little push contest.”

{¶ 39} Sapp and Pearson walked together until they reached some railroad tracks.   There, according to Sapp, they “kissed and messed around a little bit.”   But Pearson said, “[W]hy is it that all men * * * got to have that stubble shit.   Just like Butch.”   Then, according to Sapp, she slapped him.

{¶ 40} Sapp became furious.   He was thinking that “[the] bitch needed to die.   All bitches needed to die.   It was time for that kind of shit to stop.   It ain’t gonna happen no more.”   Sapp assaulted Pearson.   He beat her with a piece of steel cable, kicked her repeatedly, and stabbed her in the stomach.

{¶ 41} At some point, Sapp removed Pearson’s pants and had intercourse with her without ejaculating.   Sapp indicated to police that the sex was consensual.   Consistent with that claim, Sapp initially told police that he had pulled Pearson’s jeans off.   However, he then claimed to have torn them off and finally admitted that he spent seven to 12 minutes cutting Pearson’s jeans off.

{¶ 42} Once Pearson stopped moving, Sapp hid her under a nearby loading dock and ran away.   As he fled, he threw his knife onto the church roof and hid the piece of cable in a storm drain.   Police later recovered the piece of steel cable identified by Sapp from the storm drain.

{¶ 43} While confessing to this crime, Sapp mentioned that he owned a surgical scalpel that had belonged to his mother;  it was the “[s]ame one she cut [his] pants off with.”

{¶ 44} Sapp later told Johnny Saxour that he “jumped on” a woman at a location near Selma Road “because she had a pink outfit on and he didn’t like her outfit and he started beating her with a crow bar * * *. And he thought he had killed her, but somebody had hollered at him and he took a-running and he thought the girl was dead when he left her.”

Indictment, Trial, and Sentence

{¶ 45} The grand jury returned a 27-count indictment against Sapp. The indictment included three counts of aggravated murder with prior calculation and design pursuant to R.C. 2903.01(A), three counts of aggravated murder during a rape pursuant to R.C. 2903.01(B), and three counts of aggravated murder during a kidnapping pursuant to R.C. 2903.01(B).

 {¶ 46} Each aggravated murder count carried the following death specifications:  (1) the aggravated murder was part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful killing of or attempt to kill two or more persons pursuant to R.C. 2929.04(A)(5) and (2) the defendant committed the aggravated murder while committing rape or kidnapping, R.C. 2929.04(A)(7).   Counts 1 through 6, as originally charged, also carried specifications under R.C. 2929.04(A)(3) (offense was committed to avoid apprehension), but these specifications were dismissed on the state’s motion before trial.

{¶ 47} Two counts charged Sapp with the attempted aggravated murder of Hazel Pearson.   Sapp was also charged with four counts of rape, four counts of kidnapping, three counts of evidence tampering, pursuant to R.C. 2921.12(A)(1), and three counts of abusing a corpse pursuant to R.C. 2927.01(B).  Two arson counts were severed before trial.

{¶ 48} Sapp was convicted of all counts and specifications, and a mitigation hearing was held to sentence him on the Morrow, Leach, and Anderson aggravated murders.   Before submitting the case to the jury in the penalty phase, the trial judge merged the aggravated murder counts into a single count for each victim.

{¶ 49} The jury recommended death on each aggravated murder count.   The trial judge sentenced Sapp to death on each count.   The court of appeals affirmed Sapp’s convictions and death sentences.   The cause is now before us on an appeal as of right, pursuant to R.C. 2929.05(A) and Section 2(B)(2)(c), Article IV, Ohio Constitution.


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One thought on “William Sapp Ohio Death Row

  1. Such a coincidence. My brother was in the 5th grade at Emerson elementary and was a classmate of Martha Leach. My aunt was also best friends with Belinda’s sister Trisha. Belinda would work the area near my aunt house as she lived right across the street from the high school South that Belinda would meet her murderer. I was younger at the time, but remember Belinda as being as pretty and super nice. Every time she would see us outside she would always say hi.

    The garage her body would later be found in was just an alley back from my aunt’s house. When school started that fall and we would walk through the alley as a short cut. There was an extremely bad odor every time we would pass by a while garage. The odor was so bad it would make us sick to our stomachs every time we walked back there. Eventually, my cousins and I stopped using the alley all together.

    Had we know what the smell of death was, I’m sure Belinda would have been found earlier. It is very scary knowing this man was prowling the streets at the same time I was growing up. Springfield used to be so safe. We would stay out and play until the street lights came out and sleep on the porch like we were camping. We also walked that alley sometimes by ourselves and with others. Very sad situation.

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