November 26, 2020·9 min read
Ashley Biggs was working as a Domino’s delivery driver when she stopped at an Ohio business one summer night in 2012. An Army vet and mother of a young daughter, Biggs had no idea this company was closed. Or that the caller who had ordered the large half-mushroom, half-pepperoni pie used an alias.
The midnight delivery was just a ruse to lure Biggs, 25, to her death. At the time, Biggs was in the middle of a heated custody battle with Chad Cobb, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her 7-year-old child. When Biggs arrived, Cobb was waiting in the parking lot with a Taser and 4-foot zip-tie, which he used to strangle her.
Cobb dumped Biggs’ body in the trunk of her car and abandoned the vehicle in a cornfield in Wayne County near his parents’ home. The 30-year-old father—who had a history of domestic violence accusations related to Biggs, court records reveal—pleaded guilty to her kidnapping and murder in 2013 to avoid the death penalty.
But it wasn’t until November 2019 that New Franklin cops announced Cobb had an accomplice in the sickening crime: his former wife, Erica Stefanko, who went by Erica Lyon before she divorced Cobb and married one of his childhood friends.
For seven years, Detective Michael Hitchings monitored Stefanko. His break in the case came with a secretly-recorded call between Stefanko and Cobb’s mother, Cindee, who testified Stefanko admitted to ordering the pizza and trying to cover up the murder.
“Every time I hear a siren, I think, ‘They’re coming for me,’” Stefanko told Cobb, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
“I carried out my part. I did exactly what he told me to do,” said Stefanko, who admitted the killing was to prevent Biggs from getting custody of Cobb’s daughter. At one point in the recording, Stefanko claimed Cobb told her he wanted to save Biggs’ skull “as a trophy.”
Prosecutors said Stefanko was with Cobb when she made the pizza order, then left him in the parking lot to perform the evil deed alone. She later trailed Cobb to the cornfield and gave him a ride home after they ditched Biggs’ car.
On Wednesday, Stefanko was convicted of aggravated murder for her role in the murder plot. A jury deliberated for more than 14 hours over a span of three days in the Summit County trial that was streamed on Court TV, the Beacon Journal reported.
The 37-year-old mom ultimately chose not to testify at her own murder trial. Just before the verdict, the killer stepmom stared down at the defense table, her face partially covered by a mask because of COVID-19. She leaned back and blinked, seemingly in disbelief, when the judge announced she was guilty of aggravated murder. Stefanko was found not guilty of other offenses including kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
When sentenced in January, Stefanko faces life behind bars.
“Evidence and testimony show that she did take part from beginning, middle and end,” said assistant prosecutor Felicia Easter during closing arguments, adding that Stefanko made the delivery order, waited in the cornfield as Cobb dumped Biggs’ body, gave Cobb a ride home so he could shower the blood off his body, and returned to the crime scene to help him try to clean up evidence.
“All of this because of a custody battle—retaliation—all of this because of the dislike for Ashley Biggs and her gaining custody of G.C.,” Easter said, referring to the daughter.
Stefanko’s lawyer Kerry O’Brien said Cobb now denies murdering Biggs despite his guilty plea; he claims he only wanted to help convict Stefanko in exchange for a shot at getting out of prison early. He said Cobb had another reason to testify against Stefanko: She divorced him after the murder and married his best friend, who is helping to raise his kids.
“Here’s a person who has admitted his guilt. Admitted that he beat, admitted that he strangled Ashley Biggs … and yet now he’s trying to get out of it. How credible is that kind of person?” O’Brien said during summations.
O’Brien also took aim at Cindee Cobb, who admitted she hoped her son would get out of prison someday. Cindee used a digital recorder to tape a lengthy conversation with Stefanko in March 2014 but didn’t hand it to police until 2018. “If everything had been told exactly as it happened, we would both be in prison right now. That’s totally the truth,” Stefanko said in the three-hour chat, parts of which were played in court.
“The conversation is taped probably because of Chad Cobb telling her to do it,” O’Brien said of Cindee’s secret recording of Stefanko. “He wanted out of prison. The appeal didn’t work. Okay, that was Plan A. Let’s go with Plan B. Let’s see if my mom can get her to make some type of statement on a recording.”
“Chad Cobb not only is the real guilty person, which the state agrees with me, but I would also argue that Chad Cobb has put together a plot not only to sink her [Stefanko] but his real reason here is … it’s real simple: it’s revenge,” O’Brien concluded.
LoPrinzi, in a rebuttal, said, “Everybody has a motive, including the defendant.”
”Please do not let sympathy get involved, do not worry about Ms. Stefanko,” LoPrinzi told jurors. “I know there’s kids involved. G.C. lost her mother and her father and she’s here testifying against somebody she called mom. The kids will survive. Don’t worry about Erica [Stefanko’s] feelings. Just like, as she put it, she didn’t feel bad about Ashley, not even the moments she went through before her life ended.
“When you listen to her words, please believe them.”
Cobb declined to cooperate with police against Stefanko until 2017, when he claimed he was upset about being unable to see his kids and wrote Hitchings a letter saying he’d finally implicate his ex-wife. “Did it appear that Chad might be seeking some form of revenge?” O’Brien asked Hitchings. “To me, he was trying to get the whole story out, I guess, about what happened that night,” Hitchings replied.
Both Biggs’ daughter, now 15 years old, and Cobb testified against Stefanko.
The daughter said she doesn’t remember Biggs, who reentered her life in 2011 after she’d been raised mainly by Cobb. But the girl said she remembered Stefanko, whom she described as mentally and physically abusive. “She would tell me if I told my dad what she was doing to me, she would do worse,” the girl testified.
“I remember she would hold me on the ground and she would hit me, and then she also before made me eat dog feces,” the girl said. When the prosecution asked why, the girl answered, “Because she was jealous of my relationship with my father.” The girl said she still loves her dad and wants to see him get out of prison.
According to the Beacon Journal, the teenager said she was in the backseat of a car in a “pitch black” location when she heard Stefanko, who sat in the passenger seat, order a pizza using a different name. She said she slept in the car and woke the next morning at her great-grandparents’ house.
Cobb testified via video from prison. The night of the killing, he was “walking around in circles” near a tree, wearing camouflage and waiting for Biggs after Stefanko called for pizza. When assistant prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi asked, “Is it fair to say that Ashley did not leave the parking lot alive that night?” Cobb replied, “Yes, sir, that is accurate.”
He said he met Biggs at a roller rink around 2003, after he returned home from the military, which he’d only been in for six months after high school. “It’s a complicated answer, I suppose, but it just wasn’t for me,” Cobb testified, when asked why he left. He went on to run a cable installation company. He said he and Biggs started out as friends and their romantic relationship developed over time.
Cobb said Biggs left him and their daughter in 2005, months after the girl was born. Biggs joined the Army and started pursuing other relationships, he said. “She just wasn’t around,” Cobb told the court. “I’m not saying that to be harsh.” He said he met Stefanko in December 2006 via MySpace and she moved in with him soon after. Within a few years, they started a family of their own.
In the meantime, Biggs was in a three-year relationship with Brittany Dunson, 30, who testified that Biggs said Cobb was abusive and controlling. Dunson said Biggs got temporary custody of her daughter in 2011 after receiving letters from the county Children Services Board, which had opened investigations into the daughter’s wellbeing. (Cobb and his family regained visitation with the daughter months later.)
Dunson said Cobb’s mother and grandmother came to Dunson’s mother’s home when the couple and the girl showed up for a visit. “We just tried to walk inside. I just remember his grandmother trying to tell Ashley that [the daughter] didn’t know who she was, and Ashley shouldn’t have done this,” Dunson testified. Ever since, Biggs was embroiled in a court battle with Cobb. Police showed up at the couple’s home for welfare checks several times following complaints from Cobb but didn’t find any neglect, Dunson said.
Cobb claimed he pleaded guilty in 2013 because a judge warned him his children would be adopted out in the foster care system. He implicated Stefanko after she started to deny him visits with his children while he was incarcerated.
The killer dad and Stefanko had two children together, while Cobb and Biggs had one daughter, and Stefano had another child from a previous relationship. According to Court TV, all four of the children, who ranged from 2.5 months to 6 years old, were in the car while Stefanko drove to the murder scene and to the cornfield.
After the verdict, Biggs’ friends and family rejoiced.
“THEY GOT HER. THEY GOT HER,” Biggs’ mother wrote on Facebook. “FINALLY JUSTICE.”