GALLIPOLIS — A jury trial against a Point Pleasant man accused of murdering Zane Taylor last summer was cancelled on Wednesday in the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County after a last-minute plea deal was negotiated and filed with the Gallia County Clerk of Courts.
James C. Garrett, 22, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter, a first degree felony, after a plea was negotiated between the State of Ohio, represented by the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office, and Garrett’s defense counselors, Todd A. Long and James D. Owen of Columbus.
According to the plea agreement in this case, the state will recommend that Garrett be sentenced to 11 years of incarceration for involuntary manslaughter, the maximum sentence for a first degree felony in the State of Ohio.
Additionally, during Wednesday’s hearing, upon a motion by the defense, Garrett’s bond was reduced from $1 million, 10 percent, to $10,000, 10 percent, with an additional $1,500, 10 percent bond.
While released on bond and awaiting sentencing next week, Garrett will be subject to electrically-monitored house arrest, pre-paid by the defendant. According to the journal entry, while on house arrest, the defendant will reside with his aunt in Pomeroy and will be permitted to visit his grandfather, who is presently hospitalized.
He is scheduled to appear before Common Pleas Judge D. Dean Evans for sentencing at 11 a.m. on March 5.
Garrett had been charged with murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery following the June 11 death of Taylor, 33, at the victim’s home at 1841 Ohio 218, south of Gallipolis.
Garrett, along with his co-defendants, Lacey Redmond, 26, Gallipolis, Steven L. Williams, 31, Bidwell, and Eugene O. Wasonga, 25, Point Pleasant, were arrested following an investigation into the suspicious death.
As previously reported, the four suspects entered Taylor’s residence on the afternoon of June 11 with a plan to rob him — an incident that reportedly later led to the victim’s death. Following the robbery, the four exited the residence, loaded their vehicle with stolen items and subsequently disposed of the unwanted stolen property along Raccoon Creek Road, where it was later discovered by police.
Deputies with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office responded to Taylor’s residence at approximately 2 p.m. on Monday, June 11 after the victim was found dead in his home.
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 pre-arranged “job” to hold the victim to prevent his involvement in the robbery.
According to expert witness testimony given during the preliminary hearing last year, autopsy reports indicated the discovery of a hemorrhage in the musculature of the victim’s neck, as well as contusions on the head in the eye and ear area.
Redmond, Williams and Wasonga were later indicted and charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery and complicity to commit murder, while Garrett, remained as the only suspect facing a murder charge.
After negotiating a plea agreement, Wasonga pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and one count of tampering with evidence in December, while Redmond and Williams both pleaded guilty in their respective cases earlier this month — Redmond pleading guilty to aggravated robbery and complicity to involuntary manslaughter, and Williams pleading guilty to a charge of robbery and tampering with evidence.
In conjunction with their plea agreements, all three suspects agreed to testify against their co-defendant, Garrett, at trial.
According to plea agreements filed with the clerk of courts, the state will recommend that Redmond be sentenced to five years of imprisonment for aggravated robbery and 10 years for complicity to involuntary manslaughter.
The prosecution will recommend that both Williams and Wasonga be sentenced to 30 months of incarceration for the charge of robbery and 12 months for tampering with evidence, for a total of three years and six months of imprisonment.
As specified in the defendants’ guilty pleas, the recommendation for sentencing by the prosecuting attorney is not binding upon the court, and, although the court has accepted their pleas, the court is not under any obligation to accept the plea agreements and will determine the appropriate sentence in each case.
Redmond, Williams and Wasonga are all awaiting sentencing in the common pleas court. Redmond is scheduled to appear on March 12, while Williams and Wasonga will be sentenced on March 6.