Top crime stories in Butler and Warren counties in 2018

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Donald Gazaway sentenced to 41 years for 30-hour standoff in Liberty Township.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The year 2018 included

Middletown man avoids trial, pleads guilty to murder, aggravated murderTOP STORY

James Geran, 45, of Middletown, admitted guilt in December to a pair of murder charges. He was charged with killing two women last summer before turning the gun on himself after a standoff in Trenton.

On Dec. 10, 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. Prosecutors said Motter was Geran’s “business associate in criminal activity.”

For about two hours, Geran periodically fired his weapon at the Butler County Sheriff’s deputies outside. Negotiators talked him into releasing two sisters, one of which was 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.

McClearly was found dead.

Geran could spend the rest of his life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17.

MORE: Middletown man pleads guilty to killing 2 women

Cincinnati man in January standoff gets 40-plus years in prison

Donald Gazaway, 32, of Cincinnati, held a 10-year-old boy hostage for 30 hours last winter at a Liberty Twp. apartment complex, and on Dec. 17 he was sentenced to 41½ years in prison.

Gazaway was convicted in October of kidnapping, felonious assault, inducing panic, aggravated burglary, and having weapons under disability after a four-day trial in Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater’s courtroom.

A plethora of law enforcement, including SWAT teams from the city of Hamilton and Butler County Sheriff’s Office, were on the scene for more than a day in January at the Springs at Liberty apartment complex after Gazaway had a confrontation with the boy’s mother. He demanded money and eventually kept the boy with him as he fired weapons and moved around the residence, according to prosecutors.

Gazaway maintained his innocence before sentencing, telling the judge he had done nothing wrong, and the shots were fired by someone else and he committed no crime getting into the home.

MORE: 40-plus-year prison sentence for man convicted in 30-hour standoff

Teen driver in Monroe fatal prom crash sent to rehabilitation center

A Monroe High School senior who was driving a car on her prom night that crashed and resulted in a friend’s death was sentenced by visiting Butler County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Lipps to the Miami Valley Rehabilitation Center in Xenia this month.

Chynna Brandon could spend spend up to six months in the center as she continues to receive mental health treatments.

She was driving when Kaylie Jackson, 17, a senior at Monroe, was killed after she was ejected from a car that crashed on Millikin Road and struck a telephone pole, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. The crash occurred on April 28 as the driver and three of her classmates were going to dinner in Mason before the Monroe prom.

Liberty Twp. man charged in woman’s death

A Liberty Twp. man charged in the death of Ellen “Ellie” Weik will be on trial this spring.

Michael Strouse, of Bluffs Drive, was indicted in September for aggravated murder, murder, three counts of tampering with evidence, menacing by stalking, petty theft, abuse of a corpse and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with Weik’s death, who was found dead in a Millikin Road field in August.

According to the grand jury indictment, Strouse had been stalking Weik since the beginning of 2018. The indictment also accuses Strouse of trespassing where Weik “lives, is employed or attends school.”

Strouse is being held on $4 million bond. His trial is scheduled to be on April 1.

MORE: Trial date set for man charged in West Chester woman’s death

Four convictions for felony animal cruelty in Butler County

A Middletown man pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 counts of cruelty to companion animals for killing cats and storing their bodies in a freezer.

Edmund Cunningham, 24, of Roosevelt Boulevard, was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty in August when Middletown police found multiple dead cats in his home’s freezer, according to police. A Butler County grand jury indicted Cunningham in October on 14 counts, after more animals were located in the freezer.

In exchange for the plea in Butler County Common Pleas Court, four felony charges were dismissed, according to prosecutors.

MORE: Man arrested for killing cats and putting them in freezer

Judge Charles Pater sentenced Cunningham to three years community control and ordered him to obtain full time employment and not to have any contact with companion animals. Cunningham has been incarcerated in the county jail since August in lieu of $35,000 bond.

Cunningham’s plea marks the fourth felony conviction in the county since animal cruelty laws changed in 2016.

The charge of cruelty to a companion animal had been a first-degree misdemeanor for years, with a maximum sentence of 180 days. Now it can be classified as a felony in certain cases — usually when there is a prior charge of abuse or extreme cruelty, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.

Kevin L. Sullivan entered a guilty plea to felony animal cruelty for setting a cat on fire in the summer of 2017 outside a Howard Avenue residence. He was sentenced to three years community control and was brought back to Butler County for the case after serving a jail sentence in a neighboring county for forgery.

MORE: Man convicted of setting a cat on fire

Andrew Chilton of Middletown was found guilty of felony animal cruelty for hanging and beating a kitten to death. He is being held in the Butler County Jail pending sentencing next month.

In November, Tina Jackson of Middletown pleaded guilty to three counts of felony animal cruelty after several dogs, including one that was decapitated, were found dead in frigid conditions in the backyard of her home. She was sentenced to 60 days in the Butler County Jail.

Carlise baby case appealed to Ohio Supreme court; new trial set for 2019

A summer trial date has been set for a Carlisle teen accused of killing her newborn baby and burying it in the backyard in May 2017.

Warren County prosecutors and Brooke Skylar Richardson’s defense team met today with Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda III where a tentative trial date of Sept. 3 was selected.

If the Ohio Supreme Court decides to take the defense’s appeal, the new trial date likely would be vacated, defense attorney Charles H. Rittgers after the meeting in judge’s chambers.

MORE: Carlisle baby case: Appeals court sides with prosecution

Richardson was in the justice center, but did not go into the courtroom and the case was not called to place any information on the record.

In October, the 12th District Court of Appeals sided with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office concerning doctor-patient privilege in the case, prompting the defense team to appeal to the state’s highest court.

Richardson, now 19, is charged with aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse

The appeals court ruled that physician-patient privilege doesn’t apply in the case and the teen’s conversations with two doctors should be admitted as evidence in her upcoming trial.

MORE: Brooke Richardson off house arrest, but judge imposes other restrictions

Earlier this month, the defense team of Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers filed a notice of appeal to the state’s highest court. It is up to the high court to decide if it has jurisdiction to take the case after the prosecution files a response.

A cluster of groups that are advocates for pregnant women have weighed in on the Ohio Supreme Court’s consideration of an appeal urging the high court to hear the case

The advocates say the appeals court decision may cause women to avoid medical care during pregnancy for fear of criminal prosecution, threatens the constitutional rights of pregnant women in Ohio and threatens the constitutional rights of all low-income and minority pregnant women in the state.

The prosecution has 30 days to file a response to the notice of appeal.

Typically the supreme court takes two to four months to decide whether it will hear the case, according to Anne Yeager, Supreme Court public information manager.

ExploreMORE: Women’s health groups urge Supreme Court to take Carlisle baby case

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