PRESS RELEASE, 2/27/2014

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announces charges in death of group home resident

Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced charges against Janice M. Cooper (DOB 1/21/59) in the November 18, 2013 death of 52-year-old group home resident James Zito.  Cooper is charged with 1 count of Felonious Assault (Felony 2), 1 count of Murder (Special Felony), and 1 count of Voluntary Manslaughter (Felony 1).  If convicted of all charges, she faces the possibility of life in prison. 

Zito was a 3 year resident of a group home located at 7800 Affinity Place in Mt. Healthy.  The home is managed by Takoda Trails which is based in Fairfield, Ohio.

Zito was born with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy and functioned at the level of a 2 ½ year old child.  Cooper was employed by the group home as a Residential Specialist I, care provider, and had worked there for approximately 1 year. 

Cooper was the only employee working in the group home from approximately 11:00 p.m. on November 17th until Mr. Zito’s injuries were reported to 911 at approximately 6:00 a.m. on November 18th. 

Cooper’s 6:00 a.m. November 18th 911 call reported that a patient was having difficulty breathing, that his eyelids were swollen and purple, and that he was in and out of consciousness. The Mt. Healthy Fire Department responded and Mr. Zito was transported to Mercy West Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Mt. Healthy Police Department referred the matter to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and its Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI).   BCI conducted the investigation.

The Hamilton County Coroner ruled Mr. Zito’s death a homicide as the result of blunt force trauma. 

Prosecutor Deters commented, “Mr. Zito functioned at the level of a young child.  Killing him is like killing a child.  As with all of these cases, my office will work hard to seek justice for the victim’s family and our community.”