On the night of August 14, 1988, 32-year-old Connie Nardi, after drinking and dancing on the bar at the Upper Deck tavern in Mantua, Ohio, left with Troy Busta, an admitted drug user, to go on a motorcycle ride. Her body was found two days later in a farm pond.
Busta, 21, was arrested and charged with capital murder, but accepted a deal for life in prison in return for his testimony against two other men who also were drinking in the Upper Deck that night—Robert Gondor, 24, of Mantua, and Randy Resh
, 24, of Shalersville—who left the tavern shortly after Nardi and Busta and whose accounts of their whereabouts after that were inconsistent
Portage County authorizes charged Resh and Gondor with Nardi’s murder and they were tried separately.
At the trials, Busta testified that he and Nardi returned to the bar where he bragged that he had sex with her. He said they hatched a plan where he and Nardi would leave and Resh and Gondor would follow later and all of them would have sex with Nardi.
According to Busta, when Nardi resisted, he and Gondor restrained her and Resh strangled her. They tossed her body on top of scrap lumber in Gondor’s pickup truck and drove north into neighboring Geauga County where they left her body in the pond, he testified.
A criminologist for the state crime lab testified that there were human bloodstains on the bed of Gondor’s truck and that while too old and small to be compared to Nardi’s blood, the stains were just where Busta said they had placed her body.
On June 26, 1990, a jury convicted Resh of murder and attempted rape. He was sentenced to 15 years to life for murder and five to 15 years for attempted rape, to be served consecutively.
On September 20, 1990, a jury convicted Gondor of involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years for the involuntary manslaughter and kidnapping and 18 months for obstructing justice.
On December 26, 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court set aside their convictions and ordered new trials. The decision upheld a ruling in 2002 by Judge Charles Bannon, a retired judge from Mahoning County who was assigned to the case. Bannon ruled that the attorneys for Resh and Gondor failed to discover and use critical exculpatory evidence. Bannon’s ruling had been overturned by an appellate court, but was reinstated by the Supreme Court.
The court found that at the time of the trial, prosecutors had a DNA expert’s report that what the prosecution said in court were bloodstains in Gondor’s truck were likely residue from human sweat. The information was in the prosecution’s master file, but defense attorneys stated they never saw it. The file also contained evidence that Busta had given inconsistent accounts of what happened on the night Nardi was murdered.
Resh was retried and on April 18, 2007, was acquitted by a jury. The state dropped all charges against Gondor on April 27, 2007.
In May 2014, a judge found both men factually innocent, paving the way for them to seek compensation from the Ohio Court of Claims.