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22-Year Cold Case: The Murder of Gina Tenney

Cold cases don’t always get solved. In Gina Tenney’s case, it took 22 years for her family to get justice. Here’s more information on Bennie Adams.
Gina Tenney

Bennie Adams was given the death sentence for his role in the 1985 rape, kidnapping, and strangulation of Gina Tenney a YSU Co-Ed. Adams would not be apprehended for this heinous crime for 22 years later in October of 2007.

The Crime Committed

Gina Tenney’s dead body would be found floating along the Mahoning River around December 30, 1985. A muskrat trapper analyzing his traps would be the person who ultimately found Gina Tenney dead in the river. 

Gina was a graduate from the Edgewood Senior High School located in Ashtabula. At the time of her death, Gina was a student at Youngstown State University. 

Lucian, Gina’s father stated he will never ever forget the day he was sitting in the coroner’s office well after midnight since Gina was in the freezing ice-cold water all day and had to be warmed up. However, when Lucian, Gina’s father was able to see her, he described her as beautiful as can be like she was sitting there asleep. 

Avalon, Gina’s mother stated the last time her and Gina talked was at 6:30 pm on the evening of December 29. Gina told her mom that she was currently on the way to meet up with a fellow friend. 

Just two weeks later, after Gina’s dead body was found, the coroner was able to state Gina died by asphyxiation. Gina had visible ligature marks all around her neck and even on her wrists. The coroner would also discover that Gina ad many contusions all around her torso and Gina would even suffer from a broken ankle after she was murdered. 

From the get-go, the local authorities always suspected Bennie Adams. The local authorities would suspect Bennie Adams since he was in a relationship with a girl who lived in the apartment under Gina’s. 

But during this time, forensic testing was kind of lackluster. However, Adams, 28 at the time, was discovered to possess Gina’s debit card and Gina’s car keys would be discovered in his trash can as well. 

But, with the forensic evidence being lackluster, to say the least, its Adams could not be connected to the actual murder or rape of Gina Tenney, unfortunately. 

However, local authorities also found a mate to a potholder from Adam’s girlfriend’s apartment in Gina’s apartment as well. 

Adams also was found with having a television which local authorities believed that was also from Gina’s upstairs apartment. Ultimately, Adams would be charged with possession of stolen property, but this case never fully went to trial. 

However, friends of Gina’s knew that Adams was harassing her before he murdered her. Gina would even go as far as changing her telephone number in hopes that it would stop him from calling her multiple times a day. 

With the technology in the crime science slowly approving, this is when the Ohio Attorney General’s office started a program where they would allow the various law enforcement agencies to resubmit their cold cases for further DNA testing. 

Throughout the years, the detectives on Gina’s case would always keep tabs on Adams, but when this program started, they jumped on it rather quickly to see if Adams was further involved in the murder and rape of Gina Tenney. 

In 2004, Adams was already a registered sex offender freshly released from prison after he served 18 years in a state correctional institution for kidnapping, raping, and robbing a school principal back in 1985. 

DNA samples were also taken from Adams, who was nearly 50 years of age on the day he was arrested. These samples would be quickly tested and proved a positive match for the DNA that was located on Gina’s clothing and body. Gina’s rape kit was preserved for nearly two decades until it could be officially tested. 

In October 2008, Adams was officially convicted of the murder and rape of Gina Tenney. 

The detectives who worked on Gina’s case for more than two decades were finally happy they could deliver the justice to the Tenney family. The detectives would state that it was a joyous day. A day that they have been looking forward to for the last two decades. The detectives would also state that they never lost sight of their main goal of bringing the family justice, even if it felt out of reach. 

Execution Upheld

The 7th District Court of Appeals officially affirmed the death penalty for Adams who was charged and convicted of the 1985 murder of Gina Tenney, a Youngstown State University student. 

In 2008, the Mahoning County Commons Pleas Court would sentence Bennie Adams to death in the murder of Gina Tenney. 

In August of 2008, the appellate court would hear the oral arguments of this case. 

Adams was officially indicted for Gina’s murder in 2007, 22 years after the crime was committed on his DNA matching the evidence police preserved for all these years. 

Adams defense team would point out that this crime was committed 22 years ago and how Adams would be arrested after Gina’s death for possession of stolen property. The defense team would also state that his claim for a speedy trial was denied. And this resulting in an undue delay.

However, the appellate court would reject all claims, stating that the due-process rights in Adam’s case were never truly violated, even if you consider the reasons for the delay. 

The appellate court even stated that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation did not even get the accreditation it needed for the DNA test well until 200, and they only truly began accepting cold-case analysis after they received grant money in 2004. 

All other allegations that consisted of jury instructions and selection, admissibility of evidence and trial testimony, the constitutionality of the death penalty, and the trial location were also rejected as well. 

All in all, the appellate court upheld the execution ruling. The appellate court stated that all claims that were being made by the defense team for Adam’s lacked merit and did not hold up in court.