Christopher Burleson may have been involved in the Thanksgiving Day murder of Marc Draper, but evidence presented at his trial wasn't sufficient to implicate him in the crime, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge ruled yesterday.
Burleson, 42, of 1706 Joffre Ave. showed little emotion when Judge Denise Ann Dartt announced her decision that he wasn't guilty of murder, aggravated robbery, and gun possession.
Judge Dartt reached the verdict about an hour after hearing closing arguments in the two-day trial in the murder of Mr. Draper, who was shot in the head at point-blank range about 2:45 a.m. Nov. 22 in his home at 1638 Freeman St. while he was on the phone with his girlfriend.
Family members and friends of the victim gasped in reaction to the acquittal, but remained calm in the courtroom that was monitored closely by court officers and sheriff's deputies.
Deborah Draper, mother of the 36-year-old victim, said she was disappointed with the outcome.
She said she hoped justice would be served when Darin Armstrong, 27, of 2832 Kylemore Rd., who recently was charged in the murder, goes on trial. He was being held in the county jail without bond.
"This is just the beginning. We have a long way to go," she said.
The victim's father, Ronnie Draper, was in the house during the shooting and was struck on the head by an unseen assailant.
Among the evidence considered by Judge Dartt was a 911 call made on Burleson's cell phone to report the shooting and the testimony of Omar Scott, who claimed that Burleson confessed to him in the county jail that he set up the robbery.
Judge Dartt said the 911 call was significant for the prosecution's case, but the information relayed to operators by the caller, who witnesses identified as Burleson, didn't incriminate him in the murder or robbery.
As for the claims made by Scott, who cut a deal with prosecutors in return for his testimony, Judge Dartt said the jailhouse snitch provided information that could have been gathered from other people.
"He did not add anything to the case that was not already known," she said.
Though disappointed with the acquittal, county Assistant Prosecutor Andy Lastra said the decision reached by Judge Dartt wasn't unreasonable considering the case's circumstantial evidence.
"I am disappointed anytime that a family finds itself in the tragic circumstances of losing a family member in a homicide," he said. "There needs to be closure.
"We are going to find out who is responsible for killing Marc Draper and we are going to convict that person."