51 years to life for man convicted in Middletown homicide

51 years to life for man convicted in Middletown homicide

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Derrick Brown is shown in court with his attorney Melynda Cook Howard. He was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison for the November shooting death of Joe Romano at his Middletown home and other felony charges, including participating in a criminal gang. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

A Middletown man was given a lengthy prison sentence Monday for his part in gang activity that led to two Middletown homicides in November.

Derrick Brown, 22, of 815 Crawford St., pleaded guilty as charged to attempted burglary, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and aggravated murder for the death of Joseph Romano at his Lafayette Avenue home in November. He was also charged with participating in a criminal gang.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens sentenced Brown to 20 years to life for the murder of Romano and an additional 31 years consecutively on the other charges.

Brown declined to make a statement before sentencing and showed no emotion when the sentence was handed down.

Romano was shot to death on Nov. 4, hit four times by bullets, three of them striking him in the chest, leg and neck. He was killed in his kitchen at 1517 Lafayette Ave.

Hours later, on Nov. 5, Tiffany Hoskins was found shot inside a home at 1507 Jacoby Ave. Middletown firefighters were called to the scene and found flames shooting from the second floor and Hoskins’ body at the top of the home’s stairway.

Romano’s friends and family sat in the front row for sentencing, many wearing bright green shirts with the man’s smiling face. Also present were members of Hoskins’ family.

“They will never know the damage they left behind,” Amanda Proffitt, Romano’s niece, told the judge. She pointed to her uncle’s face on her t-shirt. “This man would have given anything to anybody. He didn’t know an enemy, all he knew was friends and love.”

“Now, this smile that you see is gone forever. We will never see it again,” Proffitt said.

Before sentencing Brown, Stephens noted the man had never shown any empathy or said he was sorry for his actions.

By all accounts, Stephens said, Romano was “in the wrong place at the wrong time and said the wrong thing.”

Co-defendant, Douglas Best, 28, of Richmond St., was in the same courtroom this morning for a pre-trial hearing. Stephens set Oct. 10 as his trial date.

Two weeks ago a July 10 trial date was set for the last co-defendant Charles Ray Graham, 27, of 2002 Pearl St. He is charged with attempted burglary and participating in a criminal gang.

Middletown police say the men were members of a gang called the Cincinnati White Boys.

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