GALLIPOLIS — The prosecution and respective defense counselors are moving forward in their negotiations surrounding four individuals charged in relation to the June murder of a Gallipolis man.
Eugene O. Wasonga, 25, Point Pleasant, entered a plea of guilty to one count of robbery and one count of tampering with evidence during an arraignment hearing in the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County on Tuesday, while negotiations have commenced in the cases against Lacey S. Redmond, 26, Gallipolis, and Steven L. Williams, 31, Bidwell.
Wasonga had been charged, along Redmond and Williams, with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery and complicity to commit murder following the death of Zane T. Taylor, 33, at his Ohio 218 home on the afternoon of June 11.
James C. Garrett, 21, Point Pleasant, was also arrested in connection to this case and is the only suspect being charged with murder. He is also facing charges of aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.
According to testimony given during a preliminary hearing in this case, the suspects allegedly traveled together to Taylor’s home on June 11 where Redmond made initial contact with the victim. The remaining three suspects then allegedly entered Taylor’s home to rob the victim of money and/or items of value that could be located throughout the residence.
The suspects reportedly told investigators that it was Garrett’s “job” to hold the victim to prevent his involvement in the robbery — a choke hold that allegedly caused Taylor’s death.
Garrett was taken into custody without incident after he turned himself into the Gallia County Sheriff’s office on June 12.
Redmond was also taken into custody on June 12 at the sheriff’s office, Williams was arrested at the Gallia Metropolitan Estates in Bidwell and Wasonga was later located and taken into custody with the help of the West Virginia State Police.
As plea negotiations continue between the parities involved in the cases against Williams and Redmond, according to Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, a plea agreement filed in the case against Wasonga came in exchange for the defendant’s possible testimony against his co-defendants.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, new charges of robbery and tampering with evidence were filed in a new case against Wasonga in a bill of information. The charges in his original case were dropped as the new charges and the negotiated plea were filed.
The plea agreement filed on Tuesday stipulates that Wasonga, pending his cooperation via possible testimony against his co-defendants, will receive 30 months of incarceration for the charge of robbery and 12 months of incarceration for tampering with evidence. These sentences will be ordered to be served consecutively for a total of three and a half years in a state prison.
During the hearing, Wasonga entered a plea of guilty, and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered to be completed by the Adult Probation Department prior to the defendant’s sentencing.
Also during the hearing, defense counselor Pat Story moved for an own recognizance bond in this case, and the state also requested a reasonable bond.
Wasonga’s bond was set at $30,000, own recognizance with an additional $1,500 10 percent bond.
The defendant was released from the Gallia County Jail following his hearing. He had been held under a $1 million, 10 percent bond since his arrest in June.
The journal entry filed in this case stipulates that a sentencing hearing will be held on January 11 in the common pleas court. However, according to Adkins, as Wasonga has agreed to testify against all of his other co-defendants, he will only be sentenced once he has completed his obligation to testify against them in court, if necessary, and the cases against the other defendants accused in the murder of Taylor are settled.
In the case against Redmond, a recent entry indicates that a status conference was held in this case on December 4 and negotiations have commenced.
A jury trial in Redmond’s case has been continued to January 14, 2013. The plea deadline in this case is December 28.
In the case against Williams, a entry filed on November 30 and signed by Adkins requests an extension for the plea filing deadline, but indicates that a tentative plea agreement has been reached in this case.
A journal entry filed on December 7 in the case against Garrett schedules a hearing on a motion to substitute counsel for December 20.
According to the entry, attorneys Todd A. Long and James D. Owen have filed notices of substitution of counsel indicating that they will be substituting defense counselor Richard Hedges in this case.
Redmond, Williams and Garrett continue to be held under $1 million, 10 percent bonds.