TIFFIN - A Seneca County man pleaded guilty yesterday to the fatal shooting of an Attica man last year and was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison.
Donovan Bishop, 43, was convicted of murder with a firearm specification and two counts of tampering with evidence during a hearing before Judge Michael Kelbley of Seneca County Common Pleas Court. According to authorities, Bishop shot Jeffrey Williams, 47, outside a barn on U.S. 224 on July 14, 2003, and placed the gun and ammunition in the victim's vehicle to make the crime look like a suicide.
As part of a plea agreement, a charge of aggravated murder was dismissed. Judge Kelbley sentenced Bishop to 15 years to life in prison for the murder count, plus a mandatory three-year, consecutive term for the firearm specification.
Bishop also received consecutive one-year terms for the two counts of tampering with evidence.
Seneca County Prosecutor Ken Egbert, Jr., said the plea deal avoids a trial and the possibility of an appeal while satisfying the desire of Mr. Williams' family to see Bishop behind bars.
The defendant had spent just 16 days in jail since being charged with the slaying in December, 2003, thanks to bonds that allowed him to remain free by posting less than $100,000.
"The family wanted closure, and they were very frustrated that he had been able to post bond and it went on as long as it did," Mr. Egbert said. "They wanted closure before the Christmas and New Year's holidays."
Bishop also was convicted of lesser charges in two other cases yesterday. He pleaded guilty to having a weapon under disability, a count that stemmed from a sheriff's department search in July, 2004, that uncovered a shotgun in a barn next to his home.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of defrauding creditors. Mr. Egbert said Bishop had borrowed $160,000 from the U.S. Farm Service Agency in 1999, using some land to secure the loan. After being granted bond of $500,000, with a 10 percent payment allowed, in December, 2003, Bishop sold $16,000 worth of timber from the Attica-area site and put the proceeds toward attorney fees, violating a lien on the property, Mr. Egbert said.
"That's the most frustrating part of the case is that it was originally a $1 million bond and then was substantially lowered, and the guy secures his release and commits two more crimes," he said.
Bishop was sentenced to 11 months in prison for the weapons-under-disability conviction and 17 months for defrauding creditors. Those terms will be served concurrently.
Mr. Egbert credited Detective Kevin Reinbolt of the Seneca County Sheriff's Office for solving the murder. The prosecutor said Bishop initially denied involvement in the killing, then told investigators that Mr. Williams had brought the .22-caliber revolver to their meeting and that he was defending himself when the other man was shot.
Detective Reinbolt traced the gun's ownership to a friend of a co-worker of Bishop and found that Bishop had bought the weapon about a month before the slaying.
"That meant Mr. Bishop brought the gun to the attack, not the victim," Mr. Egbert said.
Bishop's attorneys, Patrick Quinn of Sandusky and Arthur Greenspan of Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment yesterday.