Middletown man charged with double murder will get one trial

A judge has ruled a Middletown man facing two murder charges for allegedly killing two woman will receive only one trial.

James Geran, 45, is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 10 in Butler County Common Pleas Court, but he was back in court Thursday for a hearing to separate the charges and allow two trials — one for each alleged killing.

Geran killed his “business associate in criminal activity” and dumped her body before killing his girlfriend’s mother during a standoff with deputies on June 13 in Trenton, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s office. He is being held on a $4 million bond.

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Geran is charged with aggravated murder for the death of Sharon McCleary during the standoff, and the murder charge is for the death of Megan Motter the day before.

Defense attorney Lawrence Hawkins III filed a motion Nov. 2 requesting two trials, saying because Geran would be prejudiced by the joiner of offenses in one trial.

During Thursday’s hearing, Hawkins said the two deaths occurred on separate days and had different elements that presented together to the jury would be prejudicial to his client.

“These are offenses that took place on two different dates June 12 and June 13. These are situations that involve two different victims. Involve two different locations and would involve different witnesses.” Hawkins said. “To bring them together and put them in one trial … it is a situation that it is going to bring great prejudice to Mr. Geran.”

Hawkins added he does not think the jury can separate the evidence surrounding both homicides and “it is likely a jury would blend it all together.”

But prosecutors pointed to the links between the two killings, including evidence found in a car parked outside the Trenton residence where McCleary was found dead and the weapon allegedly used in both fatal shootings.

Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Brad Burress said 45 minutes before Motter’s body was found on a roadside in Madison Twp. she was seen on security video at a Middletown Speedway with her boyfriend and Geran in Geran’s blue Dodge Charger.

That Dodge Charger was tracked by detectives to McCleary’s Sal Boulevard residence during the early morning hours of June 13.

When officers knocked on the door of the Trenton residence a man’s voice, that is believed to be Geran, yelled “Don’t do it, don’t come in. I’ll kill everybody.”

Motter’s blood and he identification were found in Geran’s blue Charges parked at the Trenton residence, Burress said.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth ruled only one trial is warranted, stating the alleged crimes are “part of a criminal scheme or course of conduct.”

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In addition to two murder charges, Geran has also been indicted for felonious assault, improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation and two counts of having weapons under disability.

The standoff lasted about two hours, with Geran continued to fire between five and eight times at the deputies outside the Negotiators were able to talk him into releasing the sisters.

However, when he let the second sister out, he immediately closed the door and deputies heard gunfire.

Geran then crawled out, having shot himself in the chin with a .380 caliber gun, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said in June.

Inside the apartment, deputies found McCleary dead.

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