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Published: Thursday, 4/13/2006

Toledoan admits role in fatal home invasion

Klein (seated). Klein (seated).

A Toledo man yesterday admitted that he joined five others in a botched home-invasion in Springfield Township that resulted in a deadly gun battle.

Brandon Klein entered into a plea agreement in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for his role in the Jan. 20 fatal shooting of John Reece, Jr., who was an accomplice in the scheme to get drugs and money.

Klein, 24, of 1021 Ontario St. appeared at the hearing in a wheelchair because of gunshot wounds he suffered during the gunfight at 8965 Old Airport Hwy.

He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and a specification that he used a gun in the crime. He was found guilty by Judge Denise Dartt, who scheduled sentencing for May 10.

Reece, 29, of 871 Colburn St. and Klein were shot in an exchange of gunfire with Joshua Bennett, who lived in the Old Airport Highway residence, authorities said.

Reece was shot by Mr. Bennett with a .357 handgun and died in a hospital.

Klein told Judge Dartt that Mr. Bennett and others were the target of a home invasion that Klein had planned with Reece, Jose J. Hernandez, Michael Madrid, William Klink, and Brian Hartford to obtain drugs and money.

Klein said he had a handgun when he, Reece, and others went into the home. He said he shot at but missed Mr. Bennett after he drew a handgun. He said he was shot when Mr. Bennett returned fire. He said he fled and didn't know until the next day that his friend had been killed.

Klein was scheduled to be tried with Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Klink. Their trial for murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary is to begin Monday. Trials for Mr. Madrid and Mr. Hartford on the same charges are set for May 1 and April 26, respectively.

The sentencing recommendation from prosecutors calls for Klein to receive a 10-year prison sentence. Prosecutors also will dismiss charges of murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary at his sentencing.

After the shooting, investigators obtained a search warrant for the residence and seized more than 100 marijuana plants, lights and power supplies, and three firearms.

Mr. Bennett, who now lives in Neapolis, and Joel Bixler and Jodi Keller, both of Waterville, were charged with illegal cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana. They are scheduled to go on trial May 18.

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