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Published: Wednesday, August 09, 2017 @ 5:48 AM
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A mother from Washtenaw County, Michigan, who reportedly had sex with two boys ages 14 and 15 over the summer of 2016 was sentenced Monday to four years and nine months to 15 years in prison.
According to MLive.com, Brooke Lajiness, 38, pleaded guilty to a host of sex crimes, including third-degree criminal sexual conduct for oral sex, third-degree criminal sexual conduct for intercourse, accosting a child for immoral purposes and furnishing obscenity to children.
Authorities said Lajiness initiated sexual relationships with the teens over Snapchat, sending them pictures of herself in the bathtub and performing sexual acts.
MLive.com reported that Lajiness drove to the homes of her victims late at night, parked the car in the driveway and had sex with the boys. She reportedly told authorities that she believed she was “helping” them.
“She explained that sex with the victim is not something she wanted to do, but she was helping him,” Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor John Vella said. “When asked to explain how she was helping him, the defendant had a hard time explaining, but stated she was helping him ‘release his whatever.’ This is an incident that this is clearly a predator.”
Lajiness’ husband defended her in court, saying insomnia was a cause. Her lawyer later said insomnia medication and “significant psychological issues” were to blame, MLive.com reported.
The 14-year-old victim's mother said she couldn’t believe that Lajiness didn’t see what she was doing as wrong.
“You made a conscious effort on several occasions to make arrangements to meet my son, sneak out of your house, start your car, leave your husband and children at home and drive to my son’s father’s house, back into the driveway between midnight and 4 a.m., wait for my son to run the driveway, commit a crime and leave,” the victim's mother said in a prepared statement for the courtroom. “Did you know that this was wrong? Did you ever worry about the harm you were doing to my son?”
That mother said that, while her son is getting pats on the back at school from other male students, he’s been quietly struggling with the situation.
“Your actions will affect my son and his relationships with others for the rest of his life,” she continued. “The guys at school pick on him and say it’s cool that he had sex with a mom. My son shared with me that the guys at school have no idea what he’s been going through and how he struggles. He has had to stay strong in front of them.”
The mother also demanded that Lajiness be sentenced just like a man would be in the same situation.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 9:31 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 9:55 PM
HAMILTON — Michael Grevious II had been found guilty of aggravated murder by a jury that deliberated more than eight hours today.
Grevious, 25, of Hamilton, was found guilty of aggravated murder for ordering a retaliation shooting at Central Avenue and Knightsbridge on Aug. 3, 2016 that killed two people.
He will face the death penalty.
On the other charges — having weapons under disability and felonious assault — Grevious was found not guilty. Those charges were related to gun violence that killed his relative during the early morning hours of July 24, 2016 at a Hamilton bar.
Attorneys will be back tomorrow afternoon to begin the sentencing face of the trial when the jury will decide Grevious’ sentence.
Grevious’s family members sobbed in the courtroom as they left
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 6:30 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 9:39 PM
BUTLER COUNTY — The fate of Michael Grevious II is now in the hands of a jury.
Grevious, 25, of Hamilton, is facing the death penalty if found guilty of aggravated murder for allegedly ordering a retaliation shooting at Central Avenue and Knightsbridge on Aug. 3, 2016 that killed two people. He is also charged with having weapons under disability and felonious assault for gun violence that killed his relative during the early morning hours of July 24, 2016 at a Hamilton bar.
Closing arguments began shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. After receiving instructions from Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens, the jury began deliberations at about 12:20 p.m.
During closing arguments, prosecutors pointed to text messages and phone calls from a phone belonging to Grevious sent to the man they say he hired to handle the hit on Orlando Gilbert following a bar shootout that killed his brother.
Zachary Harris and two others first traveled to the city on July 27. One of those people, Erica Woods, testified she overheard Grevious tell Harris, “You get the other half when it is handled,” Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress told the jury.
The second hit team of Harris, Tony Patete and Melinda Gibby returned to the area on Aug. 2, 2016 driving around looking for Gilbert. Gibby, the driver of the truck in the fatal shooting, testified about the plan to kill Gilbert and that on Aug. 3, they were successful.
After the bar shooting and through Aug. 3, 2016, there were more than 200 calls between Grevious and Harris, Burress told the jury.
After the shooting of Gilbert in broad daylight, there were six calls between Grevious and Harris, Burress said.
“Zach wanted to tell this defendant it was handled so he could get the rest of his money,” Burress said.
Defense attorney David Washington told the jury the prosecution had told a good story, but “this is not a novel.”
Washington pointed to holes and inconsistencies in the witnesses’ testimony, noting Gibby had a reason to cooperate because she got a deal avoiding the death penalty.
Evidence against Gibby was overwhelming, so she had to do something, so she became a witness, Washington told the jury.
Washington also told the jury there is reasonable doubt because the only witness to see Grevious allegedly shoot a gun inside the bar is an 18-year-old who was drinking alcohol and smoking “weed.” There is also no evidence in any of the messages that money was paid by Grevious to kill anyone, he said.
Because this is a capital case, the jury is required to be sequestered until a verdict is reached. While sequestered, the jurors will not have access to telephones or television.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 5:14 PM
RADNOR TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Two women are dead, including a 2016 candidate for a Delaware State Senate seat, in a Pennsylvania murder-suicide that investigators said was sparked by one woman’s affair with the other’s husband.
Radnor Township police officials reported Tuesday that Jennair Gerardot, 47, of Wilmington, Delaware, broke into the rental home of 33-year-old Meredith Sullivan Chapman on Monday and waited for Chapman to return home from work at Villanova University, where she was recently named an assistant vice president.
According to the Villanovan, the university’s newspaper, Chapman started her new job a week before she was killed. She lived in the house where she died about the same length of time.
“Couldn’t be more excited...,” she wrote online Monday, about two hours before she was killed. “Just a week on the job and I’m already feeling the love from #NovaNation.”
When Chapman arrived home Monday evening, Gerardot shot her once in the head before turning the gun on herself. Gerardot also died of a single gunshot wound to the head, Radnor Township Deputy Chief Christopher Flanagan said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
A Taurus Tracker .357 Magnum revolver was found at the crime scene, with two of its seven rounds missing.
Investigators believe Gerardot took a train from Delaware to Chapman’s home – while wearing a wig and clothing later found discarded in a bag at the scene -- and broke in through the front door, cleaning up the glass so her target would not notice anything wrong when she came home.
“It’s not a love triangle. You had a man who was married that was having an affair with this other woman,” Radnor Township Police Superintendent William Colarulo said during the news conference.
“The wife knew about it. And this was a calculated, planned attack,” Colarulo said. “She broke into the house. She was lying in wait, and she shot her as soon as she walked in, and then she shot herself.
“There were emails and text messages indicating what she planned to do. Detectives are still sorting that out.”
Flanagan said Tuesday that officers were called to Chapman’s home just after 7 p.m. Monday after receiving a 911 call reporting two people down and blood inside the residence. They were met in the driveway by Gerardot’s husband, Mark Gerardot, who said he believed his wife might be inside the house.
The officers went inside the home and found both women dead in the kitchen.
Flanagan said that Mark Gerardot, 49, told police officers that he and his wife were having domestic problems that also involved Chapman. Investigators said he had been led to believe that Chapman would be meeting him nearby for dinner.
The Courier-Express in DuBois, Pennsylvania, reported that Mark Gerardot was waiting for Chapman to show up when he began receiving disturbing text messages from his wife. He went to Chapman’s home because of those messages and found the bodies.
See the entire Radnor Township police news conference, streamed live Tuesday by the News Journal in Wilmington, below.
Chapman’s neighbor, Melissa DeJoseph, told the Inquirer she saw the victim drive up between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and, with a bag over her shoulder, walk toward the door. A few seconds later, she heard sharp noises from inside the house.
“In my head, I was, like, ‘Is that a gunshot? No, it can’t be a gunshot,’” DeJoseph told the Inquirer.
Other neighbors also reported hearing the gunshots.
Chapman was married to Luke Chapman, a former Newark city councilman, but they were no longer living together, the Inquirer reported. Luke Chapman announced earlier this year that he would not run for a fourth term in office.
Prior to her position at Villanova, Meredith Chapman served as senior director of marketing for the University of Delaware, where she also got her college degree. She also taught at the university as an adjunct professor.
She worked on several political campaigns, as well as on Capitol Hill, where she collaborated with former Vice President Joe Biden when he was a Delaware state senator, according to her Facebook page. She served as communications manager for then-U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in 2007 and 2008, the News Journal reported.
Chapman ran unsuccessfully for a Delaware State Senate seat in 2016, losing the election to opponent Dave Sokola.
Sokola expressed shock at the news of Chapman’s slaying.
“Kathy and I are stunned by the news about Meredith and I’m deeply, deeply saddened to learn that such a promising young woman’s life has been cut so short,” Sokola wrote on Facebook. “I’ve always respected my opponents and Meredith was certainly no exception. She was sharp, hard-working and motivated by a sincere desire to serve her community. She was bound for great things and it’s tragic for that light to go out so soon.
“I’ve also had the privilege to work with her husband, Luke, over the years, and he especially is in our hearts today. We wish him strength, peace, and privacy in what we know is an incredibly difficult and painful time."
Like Sokola, Chapman’s friends expressed shock on social media.
“I’m absolutely floored,” Richard Wisk wrote. “Meredith, RIP, you will be missed tremendously.”
Colleen Auer-Smith described Chapman as a bright light and a “ray of sunshine.”
“Why of all people? I don’t understand,” Auer-Smith wrote.
A family spokesperson described Chapman as a “beacon of light” to all who knew her in a statement obtained by the News Journal.
“She loved her family fiercely, was a compassionate friend and among the most talented and innovative professionals in her field,” the statement read. “Her death was sudden and tragic, but will not define who she was to the thousands of people who loved her. Her family is devastated, heartbroken and requests privacy and respect as they grieve.”
Mark Gerardot worked as a creative director at the University of Delaware until earlier this month, when he left that position. Before her move to Villanova University, Chapman was his supervisor, the News Journal reported.
He and his wife also previously ran their own marketing and design company, the Inquirer reported.
Jennair Gerardot also spent five years as marketing manager for a South Carolina-based marketing company, Circor Instrumentation, before leaving that job in December.
According to a post she wrote on the NextDoor neighborhood app in February, she left her position at Circor because of her husband’s new job at the University of Delaware.
The Inquirer, which tracked down Gerardot’s post, reported that she went on NextDoor pleading for help with her marriage.
“I just transferred to Delaware in December for my husband’s new job, and he’s telling me he wants a divorce,” she wrote, according to the newspaper. “I don’t know anyone and am completely clueless to the area.”
She asked for a recommendation for a reputable, successful and driven divorce lawyer.
Gerardot returned to NextDoor in March.
“Please recommend an EXCELLENT marriage counselor for couple on the brink of divorce,” she wrote.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 6:37 PM
TROY — A former Tipp City man indicted for his role in a drug ring that investigators said brought large amounts of heroin and methamphetamines into the Miami Valley pleaded guilty Wednesday to eight felony charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.
As part of a plea deal in a Miami County court, Hugo Avendano, 33, also agreed to the forfeiture of more than $84,000 cash seized by investigators from storage units and two houses in Tipp City.
Avendano was arrested in summer 2017 in Florida after calling police complaining someone had stolen money from him. He was arrested on warrants issued in August 2016 when he was indicted along with seven others for participation in the drug operation.
Avendano faced 11 charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated funding of drug trafficking and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity and attempted aggravated funding of drug trafficking plus five counts of money laundering. Three drug indictments were dismissed.
In addition to the forfeiture of money, he agreed to forfeiture of four new home theater systems, projection screen and projectors. The forfeitures were based on their possession through illegal drug proceeds.
Speaking through an interpreter, Avendano said he hoped “everyone forgives me for what I did.”
He could have received up to 42 years in prison.
Avendano told Judge Christopher Gee he was not a U.S. citizen. With the conviction, he could be deported or excluded from admission to the country, Gee said.
Others arrested in the case were: Mario Segura, 33, of Tipp City; Aleesha Segura White, 22 of Tipp City; Jose Barjas, 34, of Huber Heights and Dayton; and Erick Segura of Tipp City. They pleaded to charges in deals with prosecutors this year and have been sentenced.
Erick Segura was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while three years in prison was ordered for Mario Segura and Jose Barajas. Aleesha Segura White was sentenced to five years of community control.