Dayton hung jury foreman: 16 murder conviction votes were all 11-1

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 8:31 AM

Deonte Snowden in court during his murder trial last week. STAFF
MARK GOKAVI/Staff
Deonte Snowden in court during his murder trial last week. STAFF(MARK GOKAVI/Staff)

The hung jury that led to a mistrial in the murder case of Dayton’s Deonte D. Snowden voted 16 times, according to the jury foreman.

Jury foreman Mark Ewald thought the evidence and testimony made it a “cut-and-dried” case in favor of a guilty verdict, but he said one juror said they could not be “100 percent” certain and voted to acquit.

RELATED: Mistrial declared in Deonte Snowden murder trial

“It was so cut and dried … to everybody but one person,” Ewald said. “We voted 16 times and it was 11 to 1.”

Snowden, 36, faces two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault and one count of having weapons under disability related to the June 6, 2016, shooting death of William Sarver, 57.

A second trial was scheduled for April 9, 2018. Attorney Jay Carter will take over Snowden’s defense from Anthony VanNoy, who stepped aside due to his trial schedule, according to court documents.

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A Montgomery County Common Pleas Court jury heard evidence during a trial last week that lasted less than two days. Deliberations lasted about as long as the trial before Judge Gregory Singer declared a mistrial.

Less than halfway through deliberations, Singer issued what he termed a “firecracker charge” in which he asked the jury if they thought a verdict could be reached after further discussion.

Ewald, who told Singer yes, said the jury listened to the 911 call again and watched all the testimony again. He said the jury member who voted to acquit said they wanted more forensic evidence.

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“My client has maintained his innocence throughout,” VanNoy said. “He always indicated that someone else shot Mr. Sarver and that he just doesn’t know who it was. It had to be someone standing close by to him. That’s his perspective.”

Assistant prosecutor John Amos said the jury member who voted to acquit wasn’t going to convict Snowden no matter the evidence or testimony.

Ewald said he was honored to be on his first jury and that he was “so impressed with the defense lawyer and the prosecutor and the process” but that he was “flabbergasted and disappointed” that the jury didn’t reach a unanimous verdict.

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VanNoy said a key witness didn’t identify Snowden on her 911 call seconds after the shooting, but that she did in court. VanNoy also said there were other male voices heard during the 911 call so it is “incredulous” to suggest nobody else was nearby.

“The jury spoke,” VanNoy said. “We seek unanimous verdicts for a reason in our country. And when we don’t have a unanimous verdict, we try the case over again.”

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Prison for driver who killed motorcycle rider

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 4:35 PM

Fatal crash on Ohio 4 in Riverside

A driver speeding at more than 100 mph, slammed the back of a motorcycle, and killed a Dayton woman riding on the back. 

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David Olsen, 25, of Bloomington, Illinois, was sentenced to eight years in prison in the death of Alysha Lewis, 30, of Dayton. Olsen was sentenced after withdrawing his not guilty plea April 12 and pleading guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

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Prosecutors said Olsen was driving intoxicated at speeds over 100 mph when he hit the motorcycle on Harshman Road in Riverside in October 2017. Officers also found a loaded gun in Olsen’s car. 

“A completely innocent victim tragically lost her life because this defendant was driving impaired and in excess of 10 mph. This serves as another example of why persons should not drink and drive,” said Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck.

Tune in to WHIO-TV at 5:30 p.m. for more details on today’s sentencing.

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Piqua man strangled with garrote in Warren County prison

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 1:19 PM

A 40-year-old man serving an 18-month sentence for domestic violence in Miami County was apparently strangled to death in his cell at Lebanon Correctional Institution on Monday, according to authorities.

A garrote, a tool used to kill someone by strangulation, was found around the neck of a Miami County inmate on Monday at Lebanon Correctional Institution, according to the initial investigative report.

Kevin Nill, 40, of Piqua, was less than a month from the end of an 18-month sentence for domestic violence in Miami County when he was pronounced dead at 9:43 a.m. Monday at the Atrium Medical Center, according to investigators and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction records.

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“The victim inmate was found unresponsive in his cell with a garrotte around his neck at Lebanon Correctional Institution. The victim inmate was transported to Atrium Medical Center where he was later pronounced deceased,” Trooper Laura Harvey said in a report obtained today by this newspaper.

Doyle Burke, chief investigator for the Warren County Coroner’s Office, said Wednesday an autopsy and other evidence determined Nill was strangled to death in his cell at Lebanon Correctional Institution on Monday, according to authorities.

The incident at the prison on Ohio 63, west of Lebanon, Harvey’s report said, lists the offense as murder, although no charges have been filed.

RELATED: Miami County man found dead in prison cell in Warren County

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Nill was to be released on May 24, according to on-line Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction records.

He was not hanging when he was found and injuries were consistent with strangulation, which was determined to be the cause of death, Burke said.

According to prison and court records, Judge Jeannine Pratt sentenced Nill to 18 months in prison on April 20, 2017. With credit for time served, he was scheduled for release on May 24.

On April 7, 2017, a motion for a competency evaluation was withdrawn and Nill pleaded guilty to attempted domestic violence.

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The sentencing was delayed so that a pre-sentence investigation could be completed, according to on-line Miami County records.

The case stemmed from an assault on a relative, according to police reports. Pratt’s sentence followed a recommendation shared by the prosecutor and Nill’s lawyer, according to court records.

His prior record in Miami County Common Pleas Court listed a series of cases dating back to 1996 and including escape, receiving stolen property, felonious assault, kidnapping, violation of a protective order, domestic violence and attempted violence, including 2009 and 2015 cases in both of which he was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

MORE: Experts search for answers about domestic violence fatalities

Harvey declined to comment on the case, while the investigation continued.

Prison officials confirmed the fatality and investigation, but provided no other information.

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Juvenile suspects in cruiser ramming have previous felony charges

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 11:18 AM

Cruiser ramming: Prior attempted stop on vehicle

The two juveniles among four identified suspects in the Monday ramming of a police cruiser have previous felony cases.

The 16- and 15-year-olds are among four suspected of using a stolen car to hit a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office cruiser on Monday at a Valero gas station at Siebenthaler Avenue and Philadelphia Drive in Harrison Twp.

RELATED: Details emerge about suspects accused in ramming of sheriff’s cruiser

Juvenile court records obtained by this news organization indicate the 16-year-old’s first serious offense was stealing a golf cart from Madden Golf Course in May 2017.

In the months after that, however, the 16-year-old from Dayton was twice charged with receiving stolen property (both vehicles), breaking and entering and possession of heroin as well as some misdemeanors and violations of electronic home monitoring.

No family members were in court for the 16-year-old on Tuesday, when Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi told him, “Your record is only 13 pages long. Congratulations.”

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The 15-year-old’s felony record cases stretch back to July 2016 — when he was 14 — and include breaking and entering and attempted receiving stolen property as well as misdemeanor obstructing official business. The boy, who had family members in court on Tuesday, already is in treatment court.

Capizzi told them additional charges are likely, especially if investigators determine that one of them was driving a stolen Toyota Corolla involved in the latest incident.

According to the sheriff’s office, as deputies approached the stolen Corolla that was parked in the lot of the Valero, the driver noticed the deputies, got back in the vehicle and sped off, striking the patrol vehicle.

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Capizzi entered denials on the teens’ behalf and announced their appointed defense attorneys.

The judge said, “This was a very serious case. It’s not just stealing a car. … Someone stole a car, tried to escape, drove in to a police cruiser to escape and then hit a bunch of other cars. You know that’s going to mean a lot more charges against somebody,” Capizzi said. “I don’t know who the driver was.”

The boys’ next hearing is scheduled for May 3. Both remain in custody. Adults arrested in the case include Sha’King Jones, 19, and Nikeas Jones, 20. Both remain in the Montgomery County Jail.

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Driver indicted in death of local teen girl

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 4:43 PM

The force of the crash that killed 14-year-old Chelsea Bowman in October 2016 was so powerful, it split the car she was riding in, in half, and threw her from the car.

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Eighteen months after the deadly head-on crash, the driver of the Dodge Neon Bowman was riding in, 21-year-old Merle Jay Lunsford II of Dayton, was indicted for vehicular homicide and operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana and OVI.

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Prosecutors said the teen was ejected from a rear seat of the car when Lunsford crossed the center line on Frederick Pike and hit an oncoming car.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Merle Jay Lunsford II.

Tune in to WHIO-TV at 5:30 p.m. for additional details in today’s indictment.

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