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Published: Wednesday, 6/23/2010

Men who injured pizza driver at vacant house get 20 years in prison

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Rebecca Keasler was working toward realizing her dream of becoming a nurse - but she needed to earn the money as a pizza delivery driver to help her get there.

On Tuesday, with faltering steps and needing support to walk, the 21-year-old woman finally faced the two men who, with two bullets, altered her life.

"They will be able to get out of prison one day," she told Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge James Bates. "I am going to be injured for the rest of my life. I cannot do what I wanted.

"My sentence is forever and I will not get a second chance and I did nothing wrong," she said.

Rebecca Keasler issues a tearful statement in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Rebecca Keasler issues a tearful statement in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
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The two men who planned and orchestrated the Feb. 11 robbery of Ms. Keasler, who was delivering pizzas, were both sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison.

Henry O. Johnson, Jr., 28, of 127 West Park St., and Aaron McDonald, 21, of 510 Euclid Ave., each had previously pleaded no contest to one count of attempted murder, felonious assault, and aggravated robbery, each with a gun specification.

Judge Bates sentenced both men to nine years in prison for the attempted murder, eight years for the felonious assault, eight years for the aggravated robbery, and three years for the attached gun specifications. Because the assault and attempted murder charges merge, Judge Bates ordered the two sentences to be served concurrently but consecutive to the robbery charge and gun specification.

Authorities said the two men called in a pizza delivery order Feb. 11 to the Marco's Pizza at 149 Main St., where Ms. Keasler was employed. They asked that the pizza be delivered to 416 Potter St., which was a vacant house.

When Ms. Keasler knocked on the door about 9:20 p.m., the suspects grabbed her and dragged her inside. She was shot twice with a 40-caliber, high-powered sawed-off rifle - once in the abdomen, once in the back.

"I thought I was going to die," Ms. Keasler said after the sentencing while seated in a wheelchair. "I begged them for my life. They talked about it and then they left."

A neighbor heard the shots and called 911. Both men were arrested the following day.

Attorneys for the two men acknowledged the "senseless" nature of the shooting and said their clients were remorseful. During a statement on McDonald's behalf, attorney Paul Accettola shared his client's troubled past but pointed the finger at Johnson as the shooter.

"My client tells me that although he went there with criminal intent, he never dreamed that someone would be shot," he said.

Attorney John Thebes countered that it was not his client but McDonald who fired the two shots. He said that Johnson did not have a violent criminal history and was not in possession of the gun when arrested.

Johnson then apologized to the victim and said he was not a "threat, menace, or a cancer to society."

Pointing out that the two men could have been subjected to the death penalty had Ms. Keasler been killed, Judge Bates said the ultimate punishment would have fit the crime in that scenario. He said he had wanted to identify who the actual shooter was, but that ultimately both men were equally culpable.

"Both of you set in motion this atrocity by planning the robbery, by ordering the pizza, by having the masks, and by having a weapon to get 20 or 30 dollars from a pizza driver," he said. "Both of you are equally responsible. You're both equally guilty."

After the sentencing, Assistant County Prosecutor Mark Herr commended police efforts that resulted in the arrests, saying that Toledo police did a "remarkable job" in quickly apprehending the two men.

"The police did not have much to work with, yet their efforts resulted in these defendants being arrested within a day," he said. "The investigators worked tirelessly and put together a strong case."

Ms. Keasler also thanked the police department and her doctors for their efforts in helping her after the incident.

Still in extensive therapy, Ms. Keasler said she has difficulty standing, walks with a walker, and has only limited feeling in her legs but is thankful that the damage wasn't worse.

She added that she hopes others won't have to experience the fear and suffering she endured that night.

"They have no money," she said of pizza drivers. "It's just not worth it."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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