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Published: 10/10/2001

Wiggins gets prison for role in murder

Leonard Wiggins was sentenced yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to prison for his role in the 10-year-old murder of Ronald Draper under a central Toledo viaduct.

Wiggins, 30, of Toledo lured Mr. Draper on July 25, 1991, to the railroad viaduct near Albion and Post streets under the pretense of going to a party and meeting women.

Instead, Mr. Draper was shot by Christopher A. Early in retaliation for stealing drugs and money during two burglaries from Early's home on Forest Avenue in the weeks before the shooting.

Wiggins had participated in the second burglary by keeping a neighbor's dog quiet, and feared that Early was going to beat him if he didn't arrange for the victim to be alone with Early.

Wiggins, whose testimony last week was instrumental in convicting Early of the murder, was sentenced to seven to 23 years, fulfilling the stipulations of a plea bargain made with prosecutors.

Under the agreement, Wiggins pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and testified at Early's trial. In return, prosecutors dropped murder and kidnapping charges.

Before being sentenced by Judge Frederick McDonald, Wiggins cried as he apologized repeatedly to Deborah and Ronald Draper, Sr., the victim's parents. He said he believed their son was going to get beaten, not shot by Early.

“I really didn't know that it was going to happen that way,” he said. “I hate that it did. I wish that I could change it. I can't imagine how it affected you; when I do, I hurt.”

Mr. Draper, 22, a chef at a downtown hotel, was shot twice in the head with a small-caliber handgun. He was found by a passerby and died two days later in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

Wiggins said Early came up from behind at the viaduct and shot Mr. Draper. Wiggins said he ran back to Mr. Draper's house on North Detroit Avenue and drove away. Wiggins and his mother went to police the next day, reporting his involvement in the shooting. He wasn't indicted until last November.

Mrs. Draper said her son, “even though he made some mistakes along the way, he didn't deserve to be murdered.” She said his daughter, who was 3 months old when he died, has begun asking questions about the murder.

A jury found Early, 28, of Toledo guilty of aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Judge Charles Wittenberg may give him life with the possibility of parole after 23 years when he sentences him Monday.



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