The bizarre case of Duane Hurley and Daniel Kovarbasich
Danny was not immediately charged with any crimes related to Hurley's death. After release from the pediatric hospital, Danny was allowed to return home for a couple of days to recuperate from the trauma he experienced on January 22. Because of the elevated heart enzymes that he had experienced on the morning of Hurley's death, doctors feared that he might have a heart attack and advised his parents not to upset him or discuss the incident with him when they sent him home. However, before the month was over, Danny was charged with one count of murder, one count of felony murder, one count of felonious assault and one count of felonious assault with a deadly weapon. Accompanied by his attorneys, Danny turned himself in to the authorities and was held at the Lorain County Juvenile Detention Center pending trial. Under Ohio law, the murder charges require that a 16-year-old be tried as an adult. Danny was denied bond.
It should be noted that the count of felonious assault with a deadly weapon was based on the fact that a knife was used in the attack on Hurley, and the felony murder count was based on the fact that Hurley's death occurred during the course of the assault. The prosecution was planning to argue that Danny could have fled Hurley's home at any time by leaving through the front door or through the kitchen door if he had felt threatened by Hurley.
The defense opted for a bench trial held before a judge instead of a jury trial, reasoning that Danny's fate might be better served by waiving a trial by jury. The defense, which would be presented by attorneys Jack Bradley and Michael Stepanik, would ultimately concede that Danny had killed Duane Hurley but would argue that mitigating circumstances made the defendant's crime something less than murder. The defense would place Danny on the witness stand to testify in his own defense in a effort to convince the judge that he was a victim of sexual abuse despite the fact that he had initially told investigators that he had not been inappropriately touched by Hurley. It would all boil down to the point where Lorain County Judge James Burge would try to decide whether Danny Kovarbasich was a victim or a murderer. Burge had 30 years experience on the bench trying both civil and criminal cases, including five death penalty cases in Lorain County.
At the time of his arraignment, many of the students at Danny's school were in a state of stunned disbelief at his arrest and the charges being leveled against him.
"I can't believe he would do something like that," said a female student. "It doesn't seem like anything he would do...he would just like mow...(Hurley's) grass and just walk his dog, wash his car."
Up until the time opening statements would be presented by the defense no one, including prosecutor Michael Kinlin, knew for certain what type of case the defense was going to present. Would they be seeking a conviction on a lesser charge, such as manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter? Or would they put on a case of self-defense by asserting that Danny had killed Hurley to avoid being raped?
Much of Kinlin's efforts in prosecuting Danny would be in trying to prove there was no evidence of provocation by Hurley and that Hurley had been ambushed by Danny and did not have an opportunity to defend himself against the attack. After all, investigators had shown that the bloody footprint found in the kitchen belonged to Danny, a fact which could prompt Kinlin to argue that Danny was in Hurley's kitchen and could have fled through the kitchen door and into the backyard. Instead, authorities had theorized that Danny had grabbed a knife to use in his attack on Hurley who was by that time lying on the hallway floor near the front door.