A Middletown man facing two murder charges for allegedly killing two women before turning the gun on himself during a standoff last month pleaded not guilty today, Monday, July 9 in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
James Geran, 45, killed his “business associate in criminal activity” and dumped her body on the side of the road before killing his girlfriend’s mother during a standoff with deputies on June 13 in Trenton, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s office.
Because of his injuries, Geran struggled to answer questions from his court-appointed attorney Lawrence Hawkins III, shaking his head and mumbling through a wired jaw.
Geran was wearing a lime green Butler County Jail jumpsuit, which usually indicates the inmate is on suicide watch, and leather gloves on his hands. Two armed deputies stood behind him for hearing with others at the courtroom’s entrances.
Hawkins asked that one of Geran’s hands be freed so he could sign paper work, which was granted. Judge Keith Spaeth said if Geran continued to be confined with the leather gloves, the issue would have to be addressed in a motion hearing.
Spaeth continued Geran’s $4 million bond, which was set in Middletown Municipal Court. He is scheduled to be back in court on July 26.
In addition to the murder charges, Geran was also indicted for felonious assault, improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation and two counts of having weapons under disability.
The aggravated murder charge is for the death of Sharon McCleary during the standoff, and the murder charge is for the death of Megan Motter the day before, according to the indictment.
Gina McCleary, Sharon’s daughter, and Geran’s girlfriend was in the first row for the arraignment. She said she has mixed emotions about the ordeal.
“What happened was in no way justified. I still have not been about to speak to him, so I am still just kind of on the fence about how I feel completely. I am just taking it one day at a time right now,” McCleary said.
McCleary says the incident was not technically a hostage situation, “it just played out that way. It was a standoff, I mean I never felt endangered.”
During the June standoff with police, Geran had three hostages, according to the sheriff’s office: McCleary; her 27-year-old sister, Tammy Davis; and their mother, Sharon McCleary.
Sharon McCleary suffered from agoraphobia and could not leave the house, McCleary said.
“She would panic when she got close to the door. So he used that to his advantage and I wasn’t going to leave my mom or him a that time,” she said.
McCleary said, “It’s crazy,” when reminded that Geran is accused of killing her mother.
“When you have feelings for somebody and this happens, it is hard to tell what you are feeling. It is such mixed emotions. There is anger and confusion and hurt and it is just hard.”
Geran, a convicted felon, is also accused of shooting Megan Motter in the head, killing her and dumping her body off Woodsdale Road in Madison Twp.
The investigation of Motter’s death led deputies to an apartment in Trenton.
When deputies knocked on the door of the Sal Boulevard apartment, Geran shot at them, according to Sheriff Richard Jones.
Over the course of about two hours, Geran continued to fire between five and eight times at the deputies outside. Negotiators were able to talk him into releasing the sisters.
However, when he let the second sister out, he immediately closed the door, the sheriff said.
“We tried to make entry at that time, then we heard gunfire,” Jones said.
Geran then crawled out, having shot himself in the chin with a .380 caliber gun, Jones said. Geran was talking to emergency personnel when he was taken from the scene.
Inside the apartment, deputies found Sharon McCleary dead from an apparent gunshot wound.