A Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury yesterday rejected David Delacruz's claim that he shot and killed a Toledo man in self defense 30 years ago and instead found the Texas man guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Delacruz, 62, stood calmly as a bailiff announced the verdict. The jury, which deliberated nearly 12 hours after receiving the case on Wednesday, was asked to find Delacruz guilty of murder but decided on the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter.
James Hendricks, 28, was shot by Delacruz on Oct. 3, 1974, during a confrontation with the defendant in an apartment on 19th Street. He was taken to the former Mercy Hospital, where he died about 20 minutes later.
Judge Charles Wittenberg scheduled a hearing on July 25 to hear arguments on a claim raised by Delacruz's attorney, David Klucas, that the six-year statute of limitations for involuntary manslaughter had expired.
If Judge Wittenberg rules that the statute of limitations doesn't apply, Delacruz would face a sentence of four to 25 years in prison.
According to testimony at the trial, Mr. Hendricks, who stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed 240 pounds, had severely beaten the defendant's then brother-in-law, Roberto Martinez, and another man who lived in the apartment building.
Prosecutors said Delacruz re-sponded to a telephone call from Mr. Martinez to his mother and drove from Saginaw, Mich. to Toledo with the intention of killing Mr. Hendricks for inflicting the beating on Mr. Martinez.
In the presence of about six people, Delacruz went face-to-face with the victim after he barged into the apartment looking for Mr. Martinez.
Witnesses said the defendant pulled a 38-caliber revolver from his belt during an ensuing fight, firing once at the victim.
Delacruz fled from the apartment and, within a week fled out West, eventually settling in Texas, where he avoided arrest for the murder. He retainedhis real name, Social Security number, and birthday, and repeatedly passed background checks because his name was not entered into an FBI fugitive database.
Tracy Sniderhan, an assistant county prosecutor, said the jury's finding that Delacruz committed involuntary manslaughter was consistent with the facts and circumstances of the crime, including that the victim was killed with a single shot.
Even though "many of the supporting witnesses and original investigators are gone - either through retirement or by death, it was a fair trial," he said.
Mr. Klucas said that he was disappointed with the jury's decision, but wouldn't comment further because of the pending motion on the statute of limitations issue.
Contact Mark Reiter at:
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