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Ohio Supreme Court to hear local man’s death penalty appeal

Published: Sunday, December 03, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

The Ohio Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments in the death penalty plea of Austin Myers, 22, of Clayton.
The Ohio Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments in the death penalty plea of Austin Myers, 22, of Clayton.

UPDATE @ 9:31 a.m. (Dec. 5):

The hearing at the Ohio Supreme Court for Austin Myers, 22, of Clayton, has begun.  Myers stabbed Justin Back to death in Warren County in January 2014.

Myers was convicted for the murder and was sentenced to death. He appealed that decision.


On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court is to preside over a legal debate over whether the death penalty should be executed on a young Clayton man - the second youngest on Ohio’s Death Row - for the murder of an even younger Warren County man at his home outside Waynesville in January 2014.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell will personally argue for the state to continue forward toward the execution of Austin Myers, now 22, of Clayton, although another Clayton man, Timothy Mosley - like Myers 19 years old at the time - actually stabbed to death Justin Back, 18, a 2013 Waynesville High School graduate about to enter the U.S. Navy.

MORE: Waynesville High students mourn for graduate

“Austin Myers killed Justin. Tim was his weapon of choice,” Fornshell said last week, quoting Back’s stepfather, Mark Cates, a local prison guard.

It will be Fornshell’s first appearance before the high court on behalf of Warren County.

RELATED: Ohio House passes ‘Justin’s Law’ 

Lawyers appointed to appeal Myers’ death sentence have identified 18 violations of law they claim should convince the state’s high court to set aside his death sentence, including his age and the lesser sentence - life in prison without parole - Mosley received in exchange for his testimony.

Three years later, Myers is still the second youngest of 140 Ohio prisoners facing the death penalty. Damantae Graham, 20, convicted of killing a Kent State University student, is the only one younger.

Myers’ lawyers also claim errors or misconduct by the judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case, decided more than three years ago in Warren County Common Pleas Court, should convince the high court, including appointed Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice of Ohio’s 11th District Court of Appeals, to spare his life.

RELATED: Local teen becomes Ohio’s youngest on death row

“Mr. Myers’s rights under the Constitution of the United States and the Ohio Constitution were violated and he was denied a fair trial and sentencing proceeding. Accordingly, this Court should reverse and discharge the defendant or grant a new trial. In the alternative, this Court should vacate the death sentence, remand for a resentencing hearing, and order the life sentence imposed,” lawyer Timothy McKenna said in his brief to the high court.

The appeal, pending since Oct. 27, 2014, was set for oral arguments on Oct. 20, after a second Ohio Death Row inmate was executed. These came after the postponement of scheduled executions starting in January 2014 following problems during the execution of Dennis McGuire, a Preble County man.

Rice was appointed to the high court on Nov. 6, replacing Justice Bill O’Neill, who recused himself after announcing he was running for governor.

The case

Myers and Mosley were arrested in July 2014 after Back’s mutilated body was found in Preble County, in a wooded area outside Versailles known as Crybaby Bridge. They both gave statements during interrogation at the Clayton Police Department used by investigators in reconstructing the crime, according to police and court records.

According to their statements, Mosely’s testimony and other evidence, after a day of preparation and planning, Myers and Mosley went to Back’s home in a small neighborhood along the Little Miami River, east of Waynesvile. With a garrote - fashioned by a friend who was not charged - Mosley came up behind Back and began choking him, while Myers restrained Back. When the garrote caught on Back’s chin, Mosley pulled out a knife and stabbed Back to death.

After cleaning the home and stealing Back’s iPod and wallet, as well as a gun and safe belonging to Cates, Mosley and Myers removed Back’s body, dumping it in Preble County after dousing it with chemicals to quicken decomposition. Before leaving the body, Myers shot it twice with Cates’ gun.

At trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that Myers was the mastermind of the crime and he was sentenced to die. Mosley, in exchange for his testimony, was sentenced in a plea bargain to life without parole.

RELATED: Plea agreement reached in death penalty case

The issues

Mosley was represented by Dennis Lieberman, a lawyer hired by Mosley’s family. Myers was represented by Greg Howard and John Kaspar, appointed by the court.

But Fornshell said Mosley got the deal because - unlike Myers- he offered to cooperate. Prosecutors needed one or the other to “put in the back story,” Fornshell said.

In addition, Fornshell said Mosley accepted responsibility and Myers was “exponentially more dangerous,” pointing to evidence indicating Myers handled the bulk of the planning and wanted to go back and kill Cates.

“He’s a serial killer who got caught the first time,” Fornshell added.“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.”

McKenna and co-counsel Roger Kirk did not respond to requests for interviews.

But their 110-page brief indicates they will emphasize Myers “was a 19 year-old immature adolescent with behavioral issues” who should be spared the death penalty, in part because Mosley’s sentence spared his life, although he wielded the murder weapon.

RELATED: Supreme Court ruling won’t affect Myers’ case

In addition, they claim prosecutors rendered Myers’ lawyers “admittedly ineffective” by withholding evidence until “on the Friday eve before the Monday trial,”as well as the fact that Mosley was to be a witness.

The appeal

The appeal is to be the first of a series of cases heard on Tuesday and Wednesday.

All arguments are streamed live online at and broadcast live and archived on the Ohio Channel, according a release from the high court.

The court typically issues opinions within six months, but it was unclear when a decision would be issued in this case.

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Austin package explosions: Sixth blast not related to serial bombings, police say

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 8:38 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 8:38 PM

Package Explodes At FedEx Facility In Shertz,Texas

Authorities responded to another explosion Tuesday night in south Austin at a Goodwill store that left one person injured, but police said it’s not related to a string of serial bombings that have rocked the city over the past few weeks.

Earlier Tuesday investigators linked a fifth bomb blast overnight Tuesday at a FedEx ground delivery facility northeast of San Antonio to the deadly package bombs in Austin. 

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Convicted Greene County child rapist gets 108-year prison sentence

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 3:03 PM

Convicted Greene County child rapist gets 108-year prison sentence

A convicted Greene County sex offender today was sentenced to the maximum term in prison, a total of 108 years, for rape charges involving a child younger than 13.

Anthony R. Moore must serve a mandatory of 83 years in prison after being convicted of multiple counts of rape of a child under 13, rape by force and gross sexual imposition, according to proceedings today in Greene County Common Pleas Court.

EARLIER: Prosecutor: Child sex victim testifies to years of abuse in Xenia

Moore had no reaction to the sentence in court.

Moore hung his head low as the victim read her statement prior to the sentence being delivered. 

Anthony R. Moore

“I thought he cared about me as a stepdaughter and I thought he loved me. He knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong. That's all I have to say," The victim said.

The victim's father also addressed the court, stating that his daughter “has a promising future.”

"She's been through a lot of emotional, psychological things due to the defendant and we're going to overcome it,” he said. “No child should have to suffer like this. As you can see all the family is always there for her. Everybody's been through it … It ain't right and there's never any excuse for it.”

Judge Michael Buckwalter called the defendant's actions "repugnant.” 

"Immediately upon taking residence with (the mother) and her children the defendant began grooming 11-year-old (victim) for abuse,” Buckwalter said. “The defendant subjected her to a deliberate and repetitive pattern of gross sexual imposition that quickly escalated to a regular pattern of rape. He was a constant predator presence in her life to the point that she could not even enjoy a single night's sleep without fear or threat of the defendant sneaking in her room to abuse and defile her while robbing her of her innocence and the safety of her home and family … It is the court's intention and responsibility to ensure that Anthony Moore never again be alone in the presence of a child." 

Greene County Assistant Prosecutor Alice DeWine said she is grateful that the judge agreed with her recommendation to sentence Moore to the maximum possible penalty. 

“There's no reason for this defendant to ever get out of prison,” DeWine said. “Because of the heinous acts that he committed against a child, it's appropriate not only for justice for this victim, but so that no other victim has to go through this.”

DeWine said the trial was difficult for everyone, including the jury, who heard more than four hours of emotional testimony from the victim. 

"Upon the conclusion of the trial and the guilty verdicts, they were very emotional,” she said of the jury. “You hear on the news that something like this happens, but it's very different to hear it from a child who is only 14 years old."

The crimes were reported first in June 2017 when the mother of the victim, who was known to the defendant, contacted Xenia police, according to court records.

The mother told police she was sleeping on the couch and her daughter was sleeping in her bed when the defendant got in bed with her daughter, according to the detective’s statement that led to Moore’s arrest on July 2, 2017.

DeWine said that incident was “count 19,” and investigators eventually learned that the abuse had been going on since the girl was 11.

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Clark County lawyers: Deputy ‘reasonably’ thought photographer had gun

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 11:23 AM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 12:58 PM

Watch as body cam video shows when a deputy fires his weapon and shoots Andy Grimm, a photographer for the New Carlisle News.

It reasonably appeared to Clark County Deputy Jacob Shaw that a news photographer he shot in September had a gun and was a potential danger to the public, lawyers for Clark County allege in their response to a lawsuit.

PREVIOUSLY: News photographer shot by Clark County deputy sues

Photographer Andy Grimm sued the deputy, Clark County and the city of New Carlisle in December, seeking damages for what he called “excessive use of force and violation of Mr. Grimm’s constitutional and common law rights.”

Grimm, a photographer for the New Carlisle News, was shot by Shaw on Sept. 4 on Main Street in New Carlisle while preparing to take photos of the deputy at a traffic stop. Shaw can be heard on body camera footage obtained by the Springfield News-Sun apologizing to Grimm and saying he believed his camera to be a weapon.

“Defendants aver that it reasonably appeared to Deputy Shaw that Andrew Grimm possessed a firearm under the conditions facing him, in the course and scope of his employment, and in good faith, to make a split-second decision to discharge his weapon in order to protect the public and himself from perceived deadly harm,” the response from the county’s lawyers says.

EXTRA: Top stories of 2017: Andy Grimm shot by Clark County deputy

Much of the county’s response is denying several of the allegations in the lawsuit. Grimm’s actions that night might have played a role in the shooting, the county’s response says.

“Plaintiff Andrew Grimm’s own contributory and or comparative negligence and/or assumption of the risk may have caused or contributed to cause the injuries and damages of which he complains,” the response says.

Grimm declined to comment on Tuesday and the county’s attorneys haven’t responded to requests for comment.

RELATED: Clark County deputy shooting of news photographer heads to grand jury

In the lawsuit, Grimm says he suffered serious injuries and financial suffering that he believes the county is responsible for.

“The nature of the injury has caused plaintiff to lose wages for time taken off to heal from the injury,” it says. “The loss of wages suffered by Andrew Grimm is serious and of a nature that no reasonable person could be expected to endure.”

The lawsuit also alleges Grimm’s wife, Melanie Grimm and KBA News LLC, which publishes the New Carlisle News, have suffered due to the shooting.

“Plantiff KBA News, LLC asserts loss of business profits as local law enforcement agencies have retaliated against the business in response to the events of Sept. 4,” the lawsuit says.

In a statement sent to the Springfield News-Sun previously, attorney’s for the county said the defendants aren’t responsible.

“We cannot comment regarding claims against Deputy Shaw because there is an ongoing investigation,” a statement released by the attorneys says. “Clark County and the city of New Carlisle deny all claims against them.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is handling the investigation into the deputy-involved shooting. That investigation likely will head to a grand jury soon, spokesman Dan Tierney said. He declined further comment.

The sheriff’s office has said it will do an internal investigation into Shaw’s actions after the state’s investigation is completed. Shaw returned to duty in October, reassigned then to the jail.

3 related stories:

Photographer shot by Clark County deputy claims lost wages, pain

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has closely tracked developments since first breaking the news of the deputy-involved shooting on Sept. 4, including stories about what the body camera shows and the standards for officer-involved shootings.

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West Chester man sentenced for child pornography charges: ‘I am ashamed’

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 12:53 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 2:23 PM

Larry Staley has been placed on probation and will be classified as a Tier II sex offender after pleading guilty to charges involving child pornography.

A West Chester Twp. man has been placed on probation and classified as a Tier II sex offender after pleading guilty to charges involving child pornography.

Larry Dale Staley, 58, of the 8300 block of Birchstone Court, was indicted in October by a Butler County grand jury on 20 charges. In February, he entered guilty pleas to six counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, a fourth-degree felony. The remaining charges were merged.

PREVIOUS REPORT: West Chester man pleads guilty to child pornography charges

Staley faced up to nine years in prison, but told Judge Charles Pater before sentencing that he has sought treatment for alcoholism as well as urges to view pornographic images of children.

Larry Dale Staley (far right), of West Chester Twp., is sentenced March 20 after pleading guilty to six counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.(LAUREN PACK/STAFF)

Defense attorney Douglas Nicholas pointed out that Staley has no criminal past other than OVI arrests. The defense attorney said Staley is also caring for his elderly father to avoid placing him in a nursing home

“When he was drinking, that is when all this activity occurred,” Nicholas said.

Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Lindsay Sheehan said copious amounts of child images were found in Staley’s residence that had been there for years, some printed out and hidden in trash bags.

MORE: 2 children removed from Middletown home; great-grandfather says he was doing ‘best he can’

“These pornography photos involved very young pre-pubescent children,” Sheehan said, noting they were all of girls under the age of 10. The young victims are not known.

“Each time that image is viewed, accessed, printed and kept — that is is creating a market through this type of crime,” she said.

The alleged crimes occurred on or about Feb. 16, 2016, according to the indictment. The crimes involved images downloaded, and there is no indication local children were involved, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“I am ashamed of what I have done,” Staley told the judge.

He added that he is continuing treatment and has changed his actions, including access to cell phones or computers.

Before placing Staley on probation, Pater said based on the information he has, including letters from Staley’s children, there has never been any indication that he “acted” on any urges involving children.

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Pater also ordered Staley to have no access to computers and to stay away from children under the age of 12. If he violates his probation, the judge said he will serve a 12-month prison sentence.

Staley was also classified as a Tier II sex offender, meaning he will have to register his residence with the sheriff’s office every 180 days for the next 25 years.

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