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Arthur M. Ney Jr., dead at age 88, prosecuted high profile cases

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Thomas-Justin Memorial Funeral Home

As Hamilton County prosecutor, Arthur M. Ney Jr. brought some of the county’s most high profile murderers in history to justice in the 1980s; and later served on the Hamilton County Common Pleas bench.

Ney died Monday at the age of 88.

The Republican prosecutor, who served in that office from 1984 to 1992, gained a conviction against serial killer Alton Coleman, who, with his girlfriend Debra Brown, went on a rampage of violence through the Midwest.

Coleman was convicted of the murder and rape of Marlene Walters of Norwood. He was executed in 2002.

In 1987, Ney was the prosecutor in the case of Donald Harvey, a worker at the Drake Center, who killed more than two dozen elderly patients, claiming to be an “angel of mercy.” He was sentenced to four consecutive sentences of 20 years to life for 28 murders. Harvey is imprisoned in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility and will not be eligible for parole until 2043, when he will be in his 90s.

Ney gained national notoriety when he convened a grand jury that indicted the Contemporary Arts Center and then-director Dennis Burrie on misdemeanor charges over the controversial 1990 Robert Mapplethorpe photo exhibit, “A Perfect Moment.”

Burrie and the museum were acquitted, but the case thrust Cincinnati into the national spotlight and a debate over art and obscenity.

Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said Tuesday that he was saddened to learn of the passing of his friend.

“When Art was prosecutor, I worked closely with him to convict serial killer Donald Harvey of 28 murders; and Art also successfully prosecuted Alton Coleman,’’ said Deters. “Art was a friend, a mentor and a valuable public servant.”

Ney’s career in public service was tied closely to that of Simon L. Leis Jr., the now-retired sheriff, judge and county prosecutor.

Both served in the U.S. Marine Corps; and when Leis became prosecutor in the 1970s, he made Ney his chief assistant prosecutor.

When Leis left the prosecutor’s office to become a common pleas court judge, Ney was appointed to take his place and held the prosecutor’s job until he was elected to a judgeship in 1992.

“He was a gentleman from the word ‘go,’’’ Leis said. “He was a very competent man; a man of honesty and integrity. And he was my good friend.”

Leis said that, years ago, Ney started a weekly gin rummy game with Leis and some of their courthouse friends that continues to this day.

“He wasn’t much of a card player, but we always had a lot of fun,’’ Leis said. “I’m going to the card game tonight. This one’s for Art.”

He is survived by his wife, Marlene; two sons, three daughters and 11 grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Thomas-Justin Memorial Funeral Home, 7500 Montgomery Rd., Kenwood. Mass of Christian Burial will be said at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Xavier Catholic Church, 607 Sycamore St., Downtown. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked that memorial donations be given to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, 4623 Wesley Ave., Suite A, Cincinnati 45212 or the Alzheimer’s Association, 644 Linn St., Suite 1026, Cincinnati 45203.