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Jurors mull fate of man charged in '04 slaying

A Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury last night began deliberating the fate of a 23-year-old Toledo man accused in the shooting death last year of a 47-year-old West Toledo man.

Prosecutors said that Jason N. Simons shot and killed Randy Johnson early on the morning of June 7, 2004, in the front of Jackman Elementary School. Mr. Johnson was found dead in the parking lot later that morning.

Mr. Simons is charged with one count each of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, both with firearms specifications.

Jurors deliberated for 2 1/2 hours before breaking just before 9 p.m. They will continue deliberations in Judge Charles Doneghy's courtroom at 9 a.m. today.

Bradley Zasada, who prosecutors said was with Mr. Simons at the time of the shooting, entered a guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter last month as part of a plea agreement. Zasada testified against Mr. Simons during the trial.

His testimony was attacked by Mr. Simons' attorney, Myron Duhart, during closing arguments yesterday. Mr. Duhart pointed to inconsistencies between Zasada's testimony and other witnesses who were with the men at a North Toledo mobile home before and after the incident.

Mr. Duhart insisted that his client was not at the murder scene.

Mike Loisel, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor, said Zasada told his story to police long before prosecutors offered a plea deal and that it has remained largely consistent. He said Mr. Johnson was an innocent victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mr. Loisel said bullets taken from Mr. Johnson's body and one found in a wall of the mobile home where the two men and others partied the night of the incident were fired from the same gun.

He said the two men were drinking and doing drugs with others at the mobile home when they both left to look for someone to rob. He said witnesses said both men returned to the trailer home together agitated.

He said the witnesses were involved in drinking and using drugs and that inconsistencies in their stories should be expected, but not discounted.

Mr. Duhart told jurors that they should believe a Lucas County jail inmate who told them that he heard Zasada take responsibility for the shooting and planned to blame Mr. Simons.

Mr. Loisel said, though, that Mr. Simons was looking for someone at the jail who would give him an alibi for the time of the murder.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.

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