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Published: Monday, 2/2/2009

Man sentenced to five years in prison for shooting death

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Less than a year after graduating from Maumee High School, Justin Ringstaff was sentenced Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to five years in prison for the August shooting-death of a Toledo man.

Ringstaff, 18, formerly of 2651 Eastgate Rd., was sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter plus an additional year for a gun specification. He was convicted for shooting DuJuan White, 28, of 2208 Rockspring Rd., who died two days after in Toledo Hospital from a gunshot wound to the head.

The shooting evolved from a drug deal between the two men although the facts of what exactly happened remain in dispute.

During an emotional sentencing hearing before Judge Frederick McDonald, Mr. White’s aunt spoke of the bad decisions that led both men to a Rockspring Road apartment and that resulted in one death.

"Mr. Ringstaff basically executed Duane. He shot him in the back of the head and it was the worse thing my family has ever had to go through," Pamela Lawrence said. "…He can not be allowed to get away with this. He took a life and a life is something you can never, ever give back."

Tearful family members left the courtroom. After hearing the judge’s sentence, Ms. Lawrence said, "justice has not been served." The family declined further comment after the hearing.

Ringstaff, whose mother and uncle were in the courtroom, apologized to Mr. White’s family, causing an outburst by one of the victim’s friends. She was removed from the courtroom.

"I had no intention of going there and harming anyone," he said. "It was a terrible decision I made to sell drugs."

Judge McDonald said he had received several letters from both families, including letters from Ringstaff’s former teachers and coach at Maumee High School. He noted that Ringstaff had a 2005 drug felony as a juvenile and that his mother moved him from Pontiac, Mich., to Maumee in an attempt to remove him from drugs, crime, and gangs.

Once relocated, Ringstaff began to thrive in school and joined the Maumee High School football team.

The judge said that he was able to learn of "old Justin" and "new Justin" from the letters, saying "unfortunately on Aug. 26, 2008, the old Justin won out and he became involved in a drug deal."

Judge McDonald added that the facts surrounding Mr. White’s death remain unclear and that there are differing statements as to who was the seller and who was the buyer of drugs that night. Also in dispute was who brought the guns and who had initiated the robbery.

Police found OxyContin pills at the scene but the guns were never found.

On Jan. 13, Ringstaff pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, a reduced charge from the original murder charge. According to the plea agreement, an aggravated robbery charge was dismissed.



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