James Geran pleaded guilty Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court to murder and aggravated murder for the deaths of two women last June after a standoff in Trenton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Middletown man pleads guilty to killing 2 women

Geran, 45, of Middletown, admitted guilt to his two murder charges for killing two women last summer then turning the gun on himself after a standoff in Trenton. He could spend the rest of his life in prison.

On Monday, the day the trial was scheduled to begin in Butler County Common Pleas Court, Geran pleaded guilty to aggravated murder for shooting his girlfriend’s mother, Sharon McCleary, in the head on June 13 and murder for the fatal shooting of Megan Motter the day before.

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The charges each carry three-year gun specification, which increases the sentence, and the prosecution agreed the charges will run concurrent in exchange for the plea. Additional charges of improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation and two counts of having weapons under disability were dismissed in exchange for a plea.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 17 by Judge Keith Spaeth. Geran faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The minimum sentence is life in prison with the possibility of parole after 26 years.

Despite a self-inflicted gunshot to the face as the standoff ended, Geran answered the judge’s questions, assuring him he wanted to give up his right to a trial.

If Geran had decided against the guilty plea, about 40 prospective jurors were waiting for selection to begin.

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There were about 10 Butler County Sheriff’s detectives who investigated both homicides in the courtroom and Gina McCleary, Sharon’s daughter and Geran’s girlfriend, was in the back row. McCleary said she’s unsure why Geran shot her mother.

“I am pretty sure he did it. It is just the reasoning why,” Gina McCleary said, adding it could have been an accident. She said Geran confessed he had killed Motter when he came to the Trenton townhouse she shared with her sister and mother.

McCleary said she’s in love with Geran and visits him at the jail weekly.

“He took the plea for me,” she said. “I asked him to.”

Motter’s mother, Chandra Potschner, who lives in Stark County, was in the courtroom and tears rolled down her face.

“I just want to know why,” she said.

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Geran, a convicted felon who previously served a prison term for gross sexual imposition, is serving an 18-month jail sentence for failure to register his residence with the sheriff after being declared a sex offender.

Detectives say Geran shot Motter in the head, killing her and dumping her body off Woodsdale Road in Madison Twp. The detectives say Motter was Geran’s “business associate in criminal activity.”

When deputies knocked on the door of the Sal Boulevard townhouse in Trenton, Geran shot at them, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

For about two hours, Geran continued to fire between five to eight times at the deputies outside. Negotiators talked him into releasing the two sisters, one his girlfriend.

However, when Geran 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, according to deputies.

Inside the apartment, deputies found Sharon McCleary dead.

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