With the prospect of a possible life-without-parole sentence, a Toledo man on trial for aggravated murder entered an Alford plea Tuesday to murder with a firearm specification.
Telly Hopings, Jr., 24, of the 1300 block of Palmetto Avenue was then found guilty by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook, who immediately sentenced him to life in prison with parole eligibility after he serves 18 years.
Hopings shot to death Eugene Blackman, 36, in the alley behind Lyric's Lounge, 704 W. Sylvania Ave., on May 8, 2016.
In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to committing a crime, but acknowledges evidence is sufficient for a conviction that could result in a more severe sentence.
Shirlisa Blackman, the victim's cousin, told the court she wasn't sure if she was happy that the case, which had drug on for nearly two years, was finally resolved.
“For almost two years we've dealt with continuance after continuance,” she said. “For almost two years, myself and my family had to come in this room and live through constant reminders of the hurt Telly caused on Mother's Day, 2016.”
Brian Boos, an assistant county prosecutor, told the court Hopings walked past Mr. Blackman as he was speaking to a woman in her vehicle behind the bar just after 2 a.m. Hopings paced back and forth before firing five shots at Mr. Blackman, four of which struck him and killed him.
Mr. Boos said Hopings then led police on a lengthy, high-speed chase, discarding the murder weapon along the way.
Hopings, who kept his head down and spoke in a barely audible voice, apologized to Mr. Blackman's family and to his own family.
“Words can't even express my sincerity,” he said slowly.
Defense attorney Ronnie Wingate told the court Hopings was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the March 16, 2016, murder of his cousin, Ronnie Hopings. On the day that Hopings shot Mr. Blackman, Mr. Wingate said, Hopings “was delusional, delusional to the extent that he believed, whether correctly or incorrectly, that Mr. Blackman was a part of, if not the instrument of, the death of his cousin. That was his belief.”
He said Hopings was, by all accounts, a good person, although as the saying goes, sometimes good people do bad things.
“In most circumstances when those bad things occur as in this case, it sometimes is a horrific situation,” Mr. Wingate said. “That is what Mr. Hopings finds himself in.”
Still, Judge Cook said the murder was senseless, as all homicides are.
“He may not have been this individual before May 8, 2016, but on May 8, 2016, this is exactly who he was,” Judge Cook said. “He went up and he killed Mr. Blackman, and he became a murderer on that date at that time.”
“The fact of the matter is, he flat out walked right up to him, shot him, and killed him,” the judge said. “There were multiple other civil ways to have resolved this kind of conflict or turmoil that was perceived. This was completely a senseless way to address it, and that's not acceptable.”
As part of a plea agreement, the court dismissed charges of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.
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