LIMA, Ohio - A Lima man was sentenced last night to 15 years to life in prison for strangling his former girlfriend at her home in April, 1999.
DeWayne Spears, 29, was sentenced by Judge Jeffrey Reed shortly after an Allen County Common Pleas Court jury found him guilty of murder in the death of April Music, 27. The jury found him not guilty of an aggravated robbery charge.
Jurors deliberated for more than four hours over the case. Spears was charged with aggravated murder - a charge that, if convicted, could have carried a penalty ranging from 20 years to life in prison to life without parole.
Judge Reed gave jurors instructions for deliberations on possible charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, or reckless homicide, but did not include aggravated murder. The judge could not be reached for comment last night.
Although prosecutors said Spears was the one who killed Ms. Music because he called police to report her murder, they were unable to pinpoint the exact time of the offense and did not have the murder weapon.
During closing arguments yesterday morning, Diane Menashe, an attorney with the state public defender's office in Columbus, argued that the case against Spears was purely circumstantial - and left room for reasonable doubt.
There was no physical evidence either on Ms. Music's body or in the house that connected Spears to the crime, she said, and the state offered no cohesive account of what happened in the strangulation.
On Monday, the defense called three Lima police officers to the stand and asked them if there was any physical evidence at the crime scene. The officers testified that there was none.
The officers were the only witnesses called by the defense.
Terry Hord, the special prosecutor in the case, said during closing arguments that Spears had a history of violence involving Ms. Music and that there was a court order instructing him to stay away from her.
Mr. Hord told the jury that prosecutors believe the television at Ms. Music's home broke, so Spears bought one from a suspected crack house, brought it to her, and wanted her to pay for it.
She refused, he told jurors.
Dr. Diane Barnett, a Lucas County deputy coroner, testified during the trial that Ms. Music was strangled from the front with some kind of wire, but authorities never found a wire.
The prosecutor told jurors that Spears might have used a strap from Ms. Music's purse to strangle her, because her purse was missing and never found.