Ryan Lang

Ryan Lang

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 12:38

Akron Landlord Named In Lawsuit

A $25 million federal lawsuit has been filed, claiming Akron landlord Joni Laidig failed to install smoke detectors in the home on E. Tallmadge Avenue that caught fire.

Four members of an Akron family, including two young children died in that fire in the early morning hours of December 3. Three of the four who died were named in the lawsuit that was filed on behalf of their estate. 

The lawsuit claims that 37-year-old Omar Riley and his two daughters, 9-year-old Shanice and 8-year-old Aniyla, all died "as a result of the lack of smoke detectors." 

Shirley Wallis, Riley's girlfriend, also died in the fire, but was not named in the lawsuit. Her 12-year-old daughter Shaniya Simpson was able to escape the fire alive. 

The investigation and now lawsuit are both ongoing. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 12:45

Arrest Made In Palms Skill Robbery

Summit County Sheriff's Office caught up with and arrested John Richmond, who they suspect is the man robbed the Palms Skill Games on South Arlington in Coventry Township a couple of weeks ago.

Surveillance video shows a man kick open the door around 5:20 on December 7th and brandish a semi-automatic handgun with a laser-sight.

Richmond, from Uniontown, is charged with Aggravated Robbery. Detectives have recovered the cash and the pistol used in the robbery. Richmond is in Summit County Jail.

See the full press release from the Summit County Sheriff's Office below: 

On December 7, 2016, at approximately 5:20 p.m., the Summit County Sheriff’s Office responded to an armed robbery at The Palms Skill Games, located at 2766 South Arlington Road in Coventry Township. A white male kicked open the front door and made entry into the business. The suspect was armed with a semiautomatic handgun equipped with a laser sight. The suspect ordered all the patrons inside to remain seated and he then ordered the cashier to give him cash or people would be killed. The Summit County Sheriff’s Detective Bureau conducted an investigation into the matter. Subsequently, the suspect in the investigation was identified as John E. Richmond, age 30 of Uniontown. On December 19, Richmond was arrested and charged with Aggravated Robbery (F-1). He was booked into the Summit County Jail. The stolen cash and the handgun used in the robbery were recovered by detectives. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 11:14

Kasich Signs Controversial Concealed Carry Law

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed controversial Senate Bill 199 into law Monday night, lifting the current ban on carrying concealed weapons in public places like daycares, public areas of airports, and school safety zones.

The bill also gives colleges and universities the authority to allow weapons on their campuses. Private businesses can still ban weapons under the new law, which designates it as the choice of any private business. Still no concealed carry in police stations and courthouses.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 10:23

Canton ID Two Dead In Murder-Suicide

Canton Police say it was a father and son who were killed in a murder-suicide that left North Canton Middle School closed Monday.

There were two crime scenes police investigated, forcing the school closure; one at a home on Harmon Street Southwest where the father, later identified as Ronald G. Milliken, was found with multiple gunshot wounds. The 18-year-old son, Devin P Milliken, was found outside a city park restroom on Hillcrest Avenue Southwest, not far from the home.

Stark County Coroner conducting an official autopsy.

Monday, 19 December 2016 10:27

Deputies ID Suspects In Green Church Theft

Summit County Sheriff's Office has identified the suspects who they say entered the Queen of Heaven Church in the City of Green on December 8, and stole a woman's purse while she was in line for Communion. 

The 79-year-old victim says she left her purse unattended in the pew, but the Sheriff's Office says the theft was captured on surveillance camera. The two suspects, identified as Raymond B. Jarvis, 53, and Michelle L. Wells, 38, went to local Acme and Dollar General stores and used the woman's stolen credit cards to but more than $1,000 worth of items.

Michelle Wells 1

 

It is reportedly not the first church theft the two suspects have been a part of. According to a press release from the Sheriff's Office, similar thefts have been reported and they've been named the suspects. One of the reported incidents happened at a church in Iowa.

Warrants have been issued for both Jarvis and Wells. Anyone with information is asked to call the Summit County Sheriff's Office at 330-643-8637. 

Monday, 19 December 2016 09:12

Akron Man Charged In Mother's Death

Akron Police have charged 47-year-old Derrick Williams with murder in connection to his mother's death. 

Last Thursday police were called to the home of 78-year-old Alaine Williams, where she was found unresponsive by her daugther. In the 911 call, her daughter said it was her brother Derrick that killed their mother. An investigation and autopsy revealed that Alaine died of blunt-force trauma to the head. 

Police caught up with Derrick Williams over the weekend, reportedly at the home in Akron. He has been booked in Summit County Jail. 

Friday, 16 December 2016 11:27

Life In Prison For Akron Woman

Kerieda Beavers, 22, of Ericsson Avenue in Akron has been sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of her boyfriend. Beavers, who will not be eligible for parole for 18 years, was sentenced Friday in Summit County Common Pleas Court by visiting Judge H.F. Inderlied. 

On January 9, 2016, Beavers and her boyfriend Tevael Parker got into an argument. Beavers, according to court documents, shot Parker in the head killing him. Parker was 22-years-old. Beavers said she and Parker were together for three years before the shooting. She was convicted by a Summit County jury back on November 23, 2016. 

In a statement released Friday, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said, "I am pleased my office was able to secure justice for this victim and his family. I will continue to aggressively prosecute gun violence in our community." 

Friday, 16 December 2016 10:10

Ten Arrested In Green Prostitution Sting

The Summit County Sheriff's Office, along with the local FBI office, says they've arrested 10 people during a prostitution and human trafficking sting Thursday. 

Inspector Bill Holland says the bust was part of an ongoing investigation in an attempt to crack down on human trafficking in the county and beyond. The operation included undercover deputies and agents who were contacted through websites that advertise sexual services for money. All of the arrests were made at a Green hotel where the parties agreed to meet while online. 

The 10 who were arrested are facing charges ranging from prostitution to possession of cocaine. 

When asked why Ohio sees such a large number of human trafficking cases compared to other states, Inspector Holland said there are a number of theories, but the number of interstates that run through Ohio definitely factor in. Holland also mentioned Ohio's close proximity to the Canadian border. 

 

Friday, 16 December 2016 05:15

Akron Death Sentence Upheld

Ohio Supreme Court upholding the death sentence of Dawud Spaulding of Akron; convicted in the double homicide of Erika Singleton, the mother of his children, and her boyfriend Ernest Thomas.

Court documents reveal Spaulding killed Singleton and Thomas outside of Thomas's Akron home back in December 2011. 

Spaulding appealed, but the Court confirmed the murder convictions and sentence in a 6-1 vote Thursday morning. No date has been set for Spaulding's execution. 

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(Court News Ohio) A man convicted in Summit County of killing his children’s mother and the man she was dating will remain on death row, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The Court voted 6-1, in an opinion written by Justice Judith L. French, to uphold the convictions and death sentence of Dawud Spaulding, who murdered Erika Singleton and Ernest Thomas in December 2011 outside Thomas’ Akron home. A few hours earlier in the same location, Spaulding shot Thomas’ nephew Patrick Griffin, paralyzing him.

Justice William M. O’Neill dissented based on the admission of certain “bad character” evidence during Spaulding’s trial. Justice O’Neill would set aside the guilty verdicts and return the case to the trial court to separate the charges into two trials.

Spaulding Convicted of Domestic Violence 
Spaulding and Singleton started dating in 1999 or 2000. They had two children – one born in 2004 and the other born five years later.

After Singleton contacted police in April 2010 about a stolen car radio and threats from Spaulding, he was convicted of domestic violence and telecommunications harassment. He was fined $200 and received a 10-day suspended sentence. Spaulding pleaded guilty to felony domestic violence for striking Singleton and knocking her to the floor in February 2011. The court sentenced him to a three-year suspended prison term if he completed three years of community control, ordered him to have no unlawful contact with Singleton, and set conditions for visits with his children.

magistrate approved Singleton’s request for a civil protective order against Spaulding in August 2011, but it was dismissed when she did not appear at the final hearing.

After November 2011 Incident, Felony Charges Filed
Singleton called 911 on Nov. 28, 2011, to report that Spaulding had broken into her apartment. She said Spaulding stayed there for hours, restrained her, threatened her with a knife and a gun, demanded money, then left. While officers were at the scene, Spaulding called her and said “let this go” and “I’m watching you now.” Police issued an arrest warrant for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, domestic violence, and kidnapping – all first-degree felonies.

Singleton moved to a battered women’s shelter, and a magistrate approved a one-year civil protection order against Spaulding. The court scheduled a final hearing on Dec. 14, when Spaulding would be permitted to respond to the allegations.

Spaulding later conveyed to police that he told Singleton he would pay her $2,500 to drop the charges and she agreed, but did not take any money. Singleton asked police on Dec. 6 if she could have the charges dismissed. She did not show up at the Dec. 14 final hearing for the protection order.

Three Shootings Take Place the Next Morning
On Dec. 14, Singleton asked her mother to watch her children, went to the movies with Thomas, and returned with him to his house. They spent some time with Griffin and one of his friends. Griffin and the friend left the house not long before 2 a.m. on Dec. 15 to buy food and sell cocaine. Griffin stepped out of the side door of the house and was shot in the back of the neck.

Police were called, and Griffin was taken to the hospital. Thomas and Singleton were driven to Singleton’s apartment about 3:30 or 4 a.m. At approximately 7:45 a.m., Singleton called her mother and said she was on her way to pick up one of her kids for school. Minutes later, Spaulding called Singleton’s mom. He asked whether Singleton had arrived and laughed. Two men discovered Singleton and Thomas lying in Thomas’ driveway at 8:01 a.m. and called 911.

Singleton was found holding luggage and a purse, and Thomas was found next to his running car with the door open and a piece of luggage sitting near the car. More luggage and a bag of clothes were in the car’s backseat. Singleton and Thomas both died from single gunshot wounds to the back of the head. Although the weapon used to shoot Griffin, Singleton, and Thomas was not found, officers recovered shell casings after each shooting, which were determined to have been shot from the same gun.

Jury Convicts Spaulding, Sentences Him to Death
Spaulding was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and with attempted murder, felonious assault, domestic violence, menacing by stalking, intimidation of a crime victim or witness, violating a protection order, and having weapons while under a disability, along with multiple firearm and death-penalty specifications.

The jury convicted Spaulding of all counts and specifications except for menacing by stalking and the capital specification that alleged Spaulding purposely killed Singleton to stop her from testifying as a witness in another case. The trial court sentenced Spaulding to death plus 32 1/2 years on the remaining counts.

Spaulding appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, raising 14 issues. The Court is mandated to hear all death-penalty appeals.

Court Rejects Argument for Separate Trials 
Before trial, the court denied a motion from Spaulding to separate the charges related to the murders of Singleton and Thomas from those concerning Griffin’s attempted murder. In this appeal, Spaulding asserted that the domestic violence and menacing-by-stalking charges should have been separated from the aggravated-murder and attempted-murder offenses.

Justice French noted that evidence of Spaulding’s past domestic violence was necessary to prove the domestic violence and menacing-by-stalking charges, and the jury’s exposure to that evidence might prejudice Spaulding on the other charges. The Court determined that the trial court would have been justified in severing the domestic violence and menacing-by-stalking counts if Spaulding had specifically requested it and provided the trial court with adequate information about the prejudicial effect of having one trial for all the offenses.

“That said, the trial court did not plainly err by permitting these counts to be tried together,” she wrote. “The joinder of these counts was not erroneous on its face at the outset of trial. And even if it had been, given the substantial evidence of Spaulding’s guilt, the alleged error was not outcome determinative.”

She pointed out that Griffin identified Spaulding as his shooter and that a witness saw Spaulding approaching Singleton and Thomas in Thomas’ driveway right before the murders. In addition, ballistics evidence showed the same gun was used in both incidents, she noted. 

Prior Convictions, Magistrate Testimony Did Not Alter Outcome
Spaulding also challenged the admission of testimony about his 2001 conviction for committing domestic violence against his mother and sister. Justice French explained that the existence of this conviction was relevant and admissible because it supported both the domestic violence charge, which required proof of at least two other domestic violence convictions, and the menacing-by-stalking charge, which is a more serious felony if the state can show a history of violence. However, Justice French reasoned, the state had no need to introduce the specific facts underlying the 2001 conviction to prove those charges.

“Unlike the details of Spaulding’s past domestic violence against Singleton, the details of this offense are not probative of whether she believed that Spaulding would cause her physical harm,” Justice French wrote. “Under these circumstances, the risk that the jury may have been ‘prejudicially influenced by details of the prior crime’ clearly outweighed any probative value of the evidence.”

However, enough other evidence supported Spaulding’s convictions that he could not demonstrate that this particular evidence infringed on his substantial rights, the Court concluded.

Spaulding also contended that the trial court wrongly allowed court journal entries about his prior convictions to be entered as evidence at trial. Based on a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision, he argued he instead should have been able to stipulate to the convictions. Although the Ohio Supreme Court has a case pending about whether the federal ruling applies to prosecutions under state law, Justice French rejected Spaulding’s claim, pointing out that he neither offered to stipulate to his convictions during his trial nor objected to the court allowing the jury to consider the journal entries.

In addition, Spaulding argued that permitting two magistrates to testify about Singleton’s hearings to obtain civil protection orders against him was improper because the jury may have given their statements greater weight as court officials. This assertion and Spaulding’s remaining arguments fail, the Court concluded.

Court’s Independent Evaluation Reinforces Convictions and Sentence
As required by statute, the Court independently reviewed the death sentence for appropriateness and proportionality. The evidence in this case supported the aggravating circumstance that the aggravated murders of Singleton and Thomas and Griffin’s attempted murder “were part of a single course of conduct that involved the purposeful killing or attempt to kill two or more people,” Justice French explained. 

The Court considered various mitigating factors, such as Spaulding’s family background, noting that he and his sister had a fairly stable upbringing with their parents, but Spaulding’s older half-brothers introduced him to drug use and dealing, and he felt devastated when his father died in 2010. Though these and other issues together were entitled to some weight, the Court determined that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

Last, the Court ruled that the sentence of death in this case was proportionate to other similar death-penalty cases and upheld Spaulding’s convictions and death sentence.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, and Sharon L. Kennedy joined Justice French’s opinion.

Dissent Would Order Separate Trials
Justice O’Neill stated that the evidence of Spaulding’s 2001 conviction for domestic violence and the testimony from the two magistrates amounted to “inadmissible character evidence.” The majority, he noted, “stretches the imagination to the breaking point” by concluding that the 2001 conviction involving violence against his mother and sister had no influence on the jury’s decision to convict Spaulding. He also believes that the majority used the wrong legal standard in deciding that the magistrates’ testimony was not “outcome determinative” in the trial.

“This court rejected ‘outcome determinative’ as the test for plain error a long time ago. The correct standard is that when a criminal defendant raises an error for the first time on appeal, that person must ‘demonstrate a reasonable probability that the error resulted in prejudice — the same deferential standard for reviewing ineffective assistance of counsel claims,’” Justice O’Neill wrote, quoting a 2015 Ohio Supreme Court case that references a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Put simply, ‘a reasonable probability that … the result of the proceeding would have been different,’ … is a little more could have than would have,” he reasoned. “And that is why the [U.S.] Supreme Court clarified that a ‘reasonable probability’ is ‘a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome,’ … instead of a probability sufficient to show that the outcome was wrong.”

Justice O’Neill also determined that Spaulding’s lawyers were ineffective because they did not stipulate to or object to court journal entries about Spaulding’s prior drug-trafficking and domestic-violence convictions. To the extent that evidence of the convictions was needed to prove other charges, Justice O’Neill concluded that the trial court should have severed the attempted- and aggravated-murder offenses from the remaining charges. To ensure a “‘fair trial and substantial justice,’” he would vacate Spaulding’s convictions and sentence and return the case to the trial court for separate trials.

A fire in an electrical vault underneat the Everett Building located at 39 E. Market Street in downtown Akron lead to about 220 FirstEnergy customers sitting without power for about an hour Monday morning. 

According to Akron Fire Department, the fire started just before 7:30 Monday morning. As Akron Fire crews responded, FirstEnergy was called to the building to shut off power. Due to heavy smoke, Mark Durbin with FirstEnergy says crews could not access the vault to shut off power. They were forced to de-energize the nearest substation, which in turn shut off power to roughly 220 downtown FirstEnergy customers, Durbin says. 

As of 10:30 a.m., power to those most all of those customers had been restored. Durbin said power at the Everett Building and two nearby buildings was still affected at that time. 

Akron Fire was still on the scene as of 11:30 a.m., Monday, and power to the Everett Building had not yet been restored. 

Meanwhile, Akron Municipal Court offices closed their operations for the remainder of the day, Monday, as of 10 a.m. In a press release, Akron Municipal Court advised anyone with scheduled court business call the office on Tuesday for rescheduling instructions. 

Stay with WAKR.net for updates on this story. 

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