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Published: Tuesday, 7/18/2006

Man gets 10 years for role in slaying

Smith Smith

An East Toledo man was convicted and sentenced yesterday for his role in the fatal shooting of James Dillingham during a robbery at a motel nearly 18 months ago.

Dennis Smith, 30, pleaded no contest in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to involuntary manslaughter and a specification that a gun was used in the murder of Mr. Dillingham.

Judge Gary Cook found Smith guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison - just one year shy of the maximum he could have received for the offense.

Mr. Dillingham, 48, was shot in the chest by Earnest Otto Smith in the early hours of Jan. 3, 2005, at the Crown Inn, 1727 West Alexis Rd., during a robbery of drugs and money.

Earnest Smith, who is not related to his co-defendant, posed as an undercover police officer when he entered the victim's motel room at 3:30 a.m.

Mr. Dillingham was beaten severely about the face and shot during a struggle with the intruder. He was found outside on the sidewalk.

Andrew Lastra, an assistant county prosecutor, said Dennis Smith planned the robbery with Earnest Smith and Cathy Barnett at a home on East Broadway.

Mr. Lastra said Dennis Smith provided the handgun, handcuffs, and law enforcement shirt his co-defendant used in the crime, and he may have gone with him to the motel and stayed outside in a vehicle.

Mr. Lastra said Ms. Barnett was at the motel with the victim earlier in the evening and told the others he had a large amount of money.

Ms. Barnett, who police believe returned to the motel with Earnest Smith, is charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. Her whereabouts are unknown.

A jury found Earnest Smith guilty of aggravated robbery and aggravated murder in September. He is serving a sentence of 31 years to life in prison.

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