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Published: Tuesday, 6/15/2010

Five-year term ordered in fatal Toledo break-in

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michael Brown, Jr., 19, is led from court after his sentencing. Michael Brown, Jr., 19, is led from court after his sentencing.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Michael Brown, Jr., had been caught breaking into area homes at least 10 times, creating a criminal history that culminated in a recent burglary and the death of his accomplice, a judge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court said Monday.

One of three men involved in a February break-in at a Galena Street home where the homeowner fired shots at the intruders, Brown was sentenced to five years in prison Monday.

He had pleaded no contest this month to burglarizing the North Toledo home as well as to an involuntary manslaughter charge for initiating the activity that led to the death of his acquaintance, Christopher Childress.

"I can't disregard your history and how many other times you didn't think about the consequences," Judge Denise Ann Dartt said.

"You were playing Russian roulette. Because of your history, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened."

Brown, 19, of 2105 North Michigan St. was sentenced to five years in prison for burglary and four years for involuntary manslaughter, to run concurrently. In addition, he will have to serve the remaining five months of a sentence for breaking and entering for violating his community control on that 2008 case.

Authorities said Cedric Joplin returned to his Galena Street home from a funeral about 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 to find three men inside.

Realizing he just interrupted a burglary, Mr. Joplin called 911.

He was still on the line with emergency dispatchers when he fired several shots, striking at least two of the three men.

Mr. Childress ran to the intersection of Galena and Michigan before collapsing. He was pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center as a result of a single bullet that entered his back and pierced a lung.

Brown sought medical attention for a gunshot wound to the back but left Toledo Hospital without being discharged. Police arrested him days later.

A third man, Jason L. Peace, 33, of 2038 Michigan St., who is Mr. Childress' uncle, was arrested later.

Peace pleaded guilty to similar charges of involuntary manslaughter and burglary and will be sentenced June 30 by Judge Gene Zmuda.

Yesterday, Brown apologized to Mr. Childress' family as well as his own for his actions. His attorney, Timothy Longacre, labeled it a "tragic situation."

"The situation started out as a break-in and tragically went out of control," he said.

Mr. Joplin, a guard at the Toledo Correctional Institute since 2000, was not charged in the shootings. But Mr. Childress' accomplices were because, according to Ohio law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be filed if a death occurred as a proximate result of criminal conduct.

Mr. Longacre said he supports Mr. Joplin's right to defend his home. But he pointed out that the evidence showed that the bullets that struck both Mr. Childress and Brown went in through their backs.

He added that the bullet that struck Brown still remains lodged in his body.

"He will carry this with him, physically and emotionally," he said.

Mr. Childress' mother, Jenny Childress, shared memories of her son in court yesterday, saying he was a helpful young man who especially loved children. Despite his good qualities, she said that she knows her son deserved prison for his criminal act that February day. What he didn't deserve, she said, was death.

She then asked Judge Dartt to sentence Brown to time behind bars for burglarizing the Galena Street home, but not to give him time in prison for her son's death.

"They were not the ones with the gun that night," she said, adding that she has no doubt her son entered that house "on his own accord." "I feel Michael has paid and will continue to pay for what happened."

Ms. Childress, who is Peace's sister, declined to comment further after the sentencing.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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