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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2007

Boater acquitted of friend's murder but is guilty of vehicular homicide

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Scott Speer, right, and his attorney, J. Anthony Rich, react to the verdict in Port Cliton yesterday. Scott Speer, right, and his attorney, J. Anthony Rich, react to the verdict in Port Cliton yesterday.
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PORT CLINTON - A speedboat driver whose passenger drowned in Lake Erie five years ago was found guilty yesterday of aggravated vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter by a jury in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court.

Scott Speer, 42, of Fairlawn, Ohio, was acquitted of aggravated murder and murder in the death of James Barnett, 40, of Barberton, Ohio, who was described as a friend of Speer's.

Mr. Barnett was riding in Speer's speedboat Aug. 6, 2002, near Catawba Island. His body was found in the lake the next day.

Speer told authorities at the time he and Mr. Barnett were returning from Put-in-Bay when Mr. Barnett fell overboard. Speer said he searched for Mr. Barnett until about 2 a.m., when he called 911 on his cell phone.

Speer was indicted in 2006 on charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated vehicular homicide, charges based on his being negligent in causing the death.

But in March, he was indicted on more serious charges: aggravated murder and murder.

Laura Barnett, mother of drowning victim James Barnett, is comforted in court by her daughters, Sharon Young, left, and Lora Snow. Laura Barnett, mother of drowning victim James Barnett, is comforted in court by her daughters, Sharon Young, left, and Lora Snow.
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Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan said at that time that investigators believed Speer pushed Mr. Barnett overboard.

Sentencing for Speer was set for Oct. 31. He could get up to five years in prison and be fined $10,000.


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