Guilty verdict in Middletown murder trial

HAMILTON — A Butler County jury has found Phillip Platt guilty of murder and aggravated robbery for the choking death of Randy Manis.

The verdict, which was read Friday afternoon in common pleas Judge Patricia Oney’s courtroom, came after three hours of deliberations.

Sentencing for Platt, who faces 15 years to life in prison for the murder charges, is scheduled for June 27.

Platt, 26, 3686 Village Drive, plotted with his girlfriend, Keri Kakaris, and Riccardo Renfro to lure Manis to a First Avenue residence and then rob him of all his possessions, according to police and prosecutors.

But Manis put up a fight and was choked to death by Renfro with Platt involved in the melee, according to prosecutors.

Kakaris and a female driver who took the trio to the house ran when the struggle broke out.

On the witness stand, 19-year-old Kakaris, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery in January, told the jury the three lured Manis to the residence after a series of text messages in which drugs and sex were promised.

Kakaris said she worked for Manis at his swap shop on Central Avenue and at a Monroe flea market. She admitted to sending text messages to Manis, asking him to meet her about a job. Later, Platt posed as Kakaris and told Manis to meet up at the residence for sex and methadone, she said.

Platt and Renfro donned masks, then hid in a closet. When the victim walked in, they ran out straight for Manis, Kakaris said.

Kakaris said Platt told her, “(Manis) was stronger than what he thought, and (Renfro) had to choke him out because Randy was getting the best of him.”

In the back seat of the car, after Platt and Renfro escaped from the house through a window, the men counted about $75 and jewelry they took from Manis.

During closing arguments, Assistant Prosecutor David Kash pointed to Platt’s taped interview with Middletown detectives in which he admitted to being at the residence when Manis died, even stating that he was masked and the first to jump from the closet to attack.

A work glove containing Platt’s DNA was found under Manis, and Platt’s blood, along with the victim’s, was found smeared on the wall, Kash said.

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