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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

2005 slaying accomplice given 17 years

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The second of two men charged in the 2005 robbery and murder of an elderly man in his Buffalo Street apartment was sentenced to 17 years in prison yesterday after being found guilty on manslaughter, robbery, and burglary charges.

Jerry Hinds, Jr., 44, who was last residing in Florida, entered no contest pleas in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to one count each of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery.

As part of the plea agreement, Judge James Bates dismissed an aggravated murder charge.

The plea was made three months after Hinds co-defendant, Rodney Bunce, 51, was found guilty by a jury of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.

The two men were charged in the death of Jessie Coleman, 74.

We always felt Rodney was the principal in this offense and that this guy was a complicitor, county Assistant Prosecutor Louis Kountouris said. It reflects that as principal, he s more responsible for the offense than Hinds is. But on the other hand, if it wasn t for Hinds, perhaps this tragedy would never have happened.

Mr. Coleman was found dead in his apartment on March 7, 2005. He had been beaten with a blunt object and stabbed in the neck.

Cold-case detectives charged Bunce and Hinds earlier this year and, on March 28, the two men were indicted for Mr. Coleman s murder.

Investigators said that Bunce and Hinds had gone to Mr. Coleman s apartment because they knew he had a substantial amount of cash after receiving his Social Security and pension checks.

Using the guise that they were selling a microwave oven, the men concocted a plan to steal Mr. Coleman s money to purchase drugs, Mr. Kountouris said.

In a statement to the court, Mr. Kountouris said the men attacked Mr. Coleman, one using a knife; the other using a hammer.

Mr. Coleman died as a result of several blows to the head and his throat was cut.

Both men initially were charged with aggravated murder, murder, and aggravated robbery.

As part of a plea agreement, Hinds pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, which is a lesser included offense of murder, and a charge of aggravated burglary was added.

Mr. Kountouris said unlike the case against Bunce, whose DNA was found at the scene, there was little physical evidence that attached Hinds to the scene.

He said as part of the evidence that would have been presented at a trial was the testimony of Hinds cousin, who saw him and Bunce on the night of the murder with cash and looking to buy crack cocaine.

Defense Attorney Matthew Fech told Judge Bates before sentencing that about the time that the incident occurred, my client had a significant substance abuse problem.

He added that Hinds has since shown remorse for the loss of Mr. Coleman and that he does accept his responsibility for his involvement.

Mr. Fech declined to comment further.

Hinds was incarcerated in a Florida prison for driving while under suspension at the time of his indictment for the murder. He told Judge Bates he has 43 days left to serve on that sentence.

Members of Mr. Coleman s family, who were in court throughout the three-day trial for Bunce, could not be reached for comment.

Contact Erica Blake at:eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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