Man charged in deaths of 2 women wants 2 trials

James Geran is charged with double murder for allegedly killing two women, including one during a standoff with police.
James Geran is charged with double murder for allegedly killing two women, including one during a standoff with police.

A Middletown man facing two murder charges for allegedly killing two women during a standoff in Trenton wants two trials — one for each alleged murder.

James Geran, 45, is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 10 in Butler County Common Pleas Court, but he will be back in Judge Keith Spaeth’s courtroom Thursday for a motion asking for the the charges to be severed.

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.

“There are two distinct offenses and distinct evidence of those offenses. If there were two trials, evidence from the separate offenses would not be admissible,” Hawkins told the Journal-News.

But the prosecution points to 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.

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In response to the motion, Assistant Butler County Dan Phillips wrote: “The facts in (cases) are very straightforward and direct, with enough distinction between them that the possibility of juror error is extremely remote … charges are of same or similar character, murder and aggravated murder. Defendant is charged with murdering two people, hours apart with the same gun.”

Prosecutors have filed a motion to have Geran’s suicide attempt used as evidence of guilt at his trial. That motion has not yet been addressed by the defense or the judge.

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.

Geran, a convicted felon, is accused of shooting Motter in the head, killing her and dumping her body off Woodsdale Road in Madison Twp.

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The investigation of Motter’s death led deputies to the Trenton apartment.

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

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 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.