Middletown teens accused of murder that began as deal for marijuana and Xanax awaiting trial

Two Middletown teens are being held on $1 million-plus bonds awaiting trial for an alleged robbery gone bad that resulted in the death of a Loveland man in December.

Paul Dillon Craft, 16, faces charges of aggravated murder, three counts of robbery and tampering with evidence. Craft’s case was sent to adult court in January after a juvenile judge found probable cause he committed the crimes. Because of his age and the seriousness of the charges, the case is a mandatory bind over to adult court.

FIRST REPORT: Middletown teen charged with murder after drug deal gone bad

Last month Craft was indicted by a Butler County grand jury on the charges he now faces. His bond is set at $1.275 million.

At Thursday’s pre-trial hearing in Judge Jennifer McElfresh’s courtroom, his defense attorney asked for another pre-trial hearing to be scheduled for April 19. Craft is being held in the Butler County Jail separate from the general population.

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The co-defendant in the case, Keegan Payne, 19, of Yankee Road, has also been indicted by a grand jury for murder, three counts of aggravated robbery and improperly furnishing a firearm to a minor. His bond is set at $1.25 million.

Middletown police say Payne and Craft conspired to rob Stephan Cotter, 22.

Payne is scheduled to be back in Butler County Common Pleas Court in front of Judge Charles Pater on April 17 for a hearing on a motion filed by the defense to reduce his bond.

MORE: Second teen charged in Middletown ‘drug deal gone bad”

Police say Craft was found hiding in the basement of a house on Crawford Street three days after the fatal shooting of Cotter, of Loveland, as a result of a drug deal.

Craft told police several versions of what happened, but he eventually confessed that he met up with Cotter and another man with the intent to purchase marijuana and Xanax, but instead pulled out a gun and attempted to rob Cotter, Middletown Detective Jon Hoover said at a January hearing.

“Once he pulled the gun out … Mr. Cotter turns around and a physical altercation occurred … he admitted to try to rob him,” Hoover said of what Craft said.

A shot was fired, and Cotter was hit in the stomach and died. Hoover said Craft admitted to shooting Cotter but said he did not mean to do it.

The teen said he purchased the gun from a drug user on Crawford Street the threw it in the river after the shooting, Hoover testified. The gun was not recovered by police.

Facebook messages from Cotter’s cell phone show conversations between Cotter and Craft discussing the drug deal and a map of Middletown telling Cotter to meet him in the 2200 block of Pearl Street, Hoover said. That is where Cotter was fatally shot.

MORE: Middletown teen’s murder case sent to adult court

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