UPDATE: This story has been updated to remove the link to the surveillance video from the BP store shooting.
Convicted killer Anthony Belton was sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on Friday to death by lethal injection for the 2008 robbery and shooting death of a BP store clerk.
A three-judge panel deliberated for more than seven hours over two days before returning the unanimous verdict. The decision ended Belton's weeklong trial and concluded more than 3 1/2 years of limbo for the family of 34-year-old Matthew Dugan.
Mr. Dugan was shot once in the head on Aug. 13, 2008, during a robbery at the former BP gas station at Secor Road and Dorr Street.
The incident, including Mr. Dugan's final moments, was recorded on video surveillance system and was played for the three judges deciding the case.
"Life is precious, and when someone takes a loved one in that way, in a cruel and harsh way, they have to accept the consequences. It's a crushing blow that you can never completely recover from," Mr. Dugan's mother, Cindy, said after the verdict.
" … For some crimes, there is only one way the debt can be paid. In this case, this was the right decision."
Belton, 26, was found guilty Wednesday of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated robbery as well as capital specifications and gun specifications.
He had pleaded no contest to the charges Monday, and a trial was held to ensure there was enough evidence to convict him of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
Judges Ruth Ann Franks, James Jensen, and Gene Zmuda heard testimony from 11 witnesses over two days and considered more than 100 exhibits before announcing guilty verdicts Wednesday. That same day, the panel began hearing evidence of Belton's character and background to consider during the mitigation phase.
Six witnesses -- including a clinical psychologist called by the state -- testified over two days during the hearing. Belton's mother, Kim Harold, testified during her son's mitigation hearing.
In court Friday, Harold became visibly upset when hearing the verdict and repeated the word, "No." She eventually was escorted from the courtroom by her other son before the proceeding was over.
Belton became vocal after Judge Franks read the unanimous verdict and when asked if he had anything to say before sentence was imposed, responded, "Hell no."
While being led away by four sheriff's deputies and court security, a smiling Belton said in response to a question that he felt good. When asked if he felt sorry for his actions, he responded, "No."
Belton was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aggravated robbery plus an additional three years for the gun specification. Judge Franks then ordered that for the sentence of aggravated murder that he be held in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction until he is put to death.
"It is further ordered that thereafter the defendant Anthony Belton be subsequently transferred to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville or to a facility designated by the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and that the defendant, Anthony Belton, shall be kept at this facility until Aug. 1, 2012," the judge said. "At midnight on that date and that time and in that place and in accordance with [state law] the sentence of death shall be imposed on the defendant by lethal injection. The application of the drugs or combination of drugs shall be continued in such time as the defendant, Anthony Belton, is dead."
An execution date is required to be set although a request for a stay of execution will be filed when Belton appeals his sentence. All capital cases are automatically appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
A federal judge on Wednesday lifted a stay that had held up Ohio executions for several months amid questions over whether the state was properly following its new lethal injection protocol. The decision means that Mark Wiles, formerly of Portage County, is scheduled to be executed April 18 for the 1985 murder of Mark Klima, 15, during a burglary.
Belton's attorneys Pete Rost and Ronnie Wingate declined to comment after the verdict.
Assistant County Prosecutor Rob Miller noted that the judges' decision was appropriate under the law.
"The goal of the Lucas County Prosecutor's office is to seek justice, and based on the evidence that was presented and the law as it exists today, we believe that justice has been served in this case," he said.
Mr. Dugan's family said that they feel no joy at hearing the verdict and noted that Belton's decisions that August day destroyed two young men's lives and affected countless others. The family expressed thanks for the work of the prosecutors and Detective Jeff Clark, who was the lead investigator on the case.
Mrs. Dugan shared thoughts of her son with the judges before the final sentence was imposed. She said that he was a loving son and brother and a rock in the family, who began working at the gas station because he had been temporarily laid off from work and needed money for his bills.
"Although the circumstances of his death were tragic, he died nobly and bravely," Mrs. Dugan said. "Although I only had him for 34 short years, I will always be proud and honored that Matthew Daniel Dugan was my son."
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.