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Published: Friday, 12/1/2006

Mason guilty of murder in February shooting

Christopher Mason is led from Common Pleas Court after a jury found him guilty of murder. Christopher Mason is led from Common Pleas Court after a jury found him guilty of murder.
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Christopher Mason wept yesterday as Judge Thomas Osowik announced that a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury found him guilty of murder and aggravated robbery in the fatal shooting of Rodney Coley.

After deliberating for 6 1/2 hours over two days, the jury convicted Mason of complicity in the Feb. 1 slaying of Rodney Coley at his home at 2736 Bryn Mawr Drive, where he lived with his three sons.

Mason went to the victim's West Toledo home about 10:30 p.m. with co-defendant, James Harris, Jr., who fired a 357-caliber revolver into the glass and wood door, killing Mr. Coley after he slammed the door shut on the intruders.

Relatives of the 22-year-old defendant hugged and cried after the jurors left the courtroom, and Mason was taken in handcuffs to the county jail. Tears streamed down Mason's face as he left the courtroom.

In convicting Mason of murder, the jury found him not guilty of the more serious offense of aggravated murder. The panel - nine women and three men - also found him guilty of gun specifications on the murder and aggravated robbery offenses.

Judge Osowik, who presided over the four-day trial, scheduled sentencing for Dec. 12. The conviction includes a mandatory sentence of 18 years to life in prison for murder and up to an additional 10 years for the aggravated robbery.

"No one celebrates these types of things, but we are pleased. Justice was served today. The jury has to be commended for how hard they worked," Mark Herr, an assistant county prosecutor, said outside the courtroom.

A jury last month convicted Harris, 20, of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. He will be sentenced Tuesday by Judge James Barber, of Fulton County.

After the jury verdicts were read, defense attorney Thomas Tomczak asked Judge Osowik to appoint a lawyer to represent Mason on appeal.

Dante Boone, 18, also was indicted in the shooting and is scheduled to appear Monday in Common Pleas Court to resolve his case by entering a plea to murder. He is expected to receive a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Mr. Boone, who was 17 at the time and certified to stand trial as adult, testified at the trials of Mason and Harris that he went with them to the Coley residence that night with intentions of robbing or burglarizing the home to obtain marijuana. All three defendants had handguns.

Ivan Coley, a younger brother of the victim, said he was pleased that the trials of Mason and Harris were resolved with convictions, and that they and Mr. Boone will get life sentences.

However, he said the convictions also brought him mixed emotions and sadness for the defendants' relatives because their family members will be locked away for a very long time.

"I am happy that the right thing was done, but I feel for the families of these three defendants. They are gone. There are families of four people affected because of what these three men did," he said.

A street department worker for the city of Toledo, Mr. Coley was shot once in the chest after he slammed the door on Harris and Mason and turned the deadbolt to lock the door.

Authorities arrested the trio the next day at a home in the 13000 block of Frankfort Road in Spencer Township near Swanton. They were stopped in a driveway in the stolen sport utility vehicle used during the murder.

The revolver that was used to kill Mr. Coley was found hidden in a window well outside the house, and the handgun Mason brandished was found in the garage. Mr. Boone's weapon was in the SUV.



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