Men sentenced to prison for Hamilton robbery in which another man was killed

Prosecutor says sentences should have been longer.

HAMILTON — Two Virginia men have been sentenced to prison for the September 2021 fatal shooting that killed a co-conspirator when the trio went to a Hamilton residence to rob a man.

Brandon Hill, 22, and Damian Owens, 27, were originally charged with murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and felonious assault for their part in the crime that led to shooting death of 35-year-old Jason Hendricks.

In June, Hill and Owens both pleaded guilty to reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter with a three year gun specification and improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard sentenced both men Wednesday to three years in prison for the gun specification and three years for involuntary manslaughter with an additional 1.5 years to be served if they get in trouble while in prison.

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Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 3 to 11 years in prison. The minimum sentence for both men does not sit well with Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.

On Sept. 21, Hill and Owens went with Hendricks to the residence of John Andrews Jr. on Bingham Street to rob him, but Andrews shot in self-defense, killing Hendricks, according to prosecutors. The indictment was unsealed in March after nine search warrants were served in Butler County, and Andrews was taken into custody on drug charges.

“I would have to assume that the circumstances played a role in that the culprits did not intend for their co-culprit to get killed as a result of their criminal action to invade a home despite the fact the home was that of a drug dealer. That is not a justification for manslaughter,” Gmoser said.

In sentencing memorandums filed by attorneys for both men, they pointed out that before coming to Hamilton to commit robbery, neither Hall or Owens had any prior criminal background and both were employed.

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Owens got caught up in the wrong crowd and came to rob a “known drug dealer, Attorney John Rutan wrote in court documents.

“A terrible idea knowing he had a career, family and job. But an idea that seemed like an easy way to make a quick buck to help with financial strains. Robbing a bad guy opposed to a store was the halfhearted way to justify his actions. An idea and plan not created by Mr. Owens,” Rutan said in the sentencing memorandum.

Attorney Brad Kraemer, who represents Hill, said his client is traumatized and “very remorseful” for what happened.

“It is important to note the deceased was an active participant in the event and went into the house armed. The defendant Hill was not, however, armed, and went into the house with a garbage bag, The deceased was actually defendant Hill’s cousin and close friend,” Kraemer wrote in the sentencing memorandum.

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After the homeowner fired rounds, Kraemer said Hill and Owens ran from the house and that is when Hill picked up a discarded weapon and fired back.

Gmoser’s response is, “Tough luck.”

“These culprits brought this on themselves. They went in with guns. This was felony violence that resulted in the death of someone and it just so happens that it happened to one of their own,” Gmoser.

Andrews is allegedly part of a group involved with a large drug seizure that happened in June and a shooting death in September. The searches resulted in the recovery of approximately 700 pounds of marijuana with a street value estimated to be around $2 million, 10 firearms, multiple vehicles and more than $50,000, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

Andrews 36, of Hamilton was indicted by a federal grand jury on 21 counts including including possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

He is in federal custody awaiting trial that was scheduled to begin this week in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, but was continued until Oct. 17 at the request of the defense who indicated plea negotiations are ongoing, according to court documents.

According to federal court documents, Andrews is one of two men investigators say were supplying large quantities of marijuana to rival gangs in Hamilton.

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