William Axel, IV, didn't have the best start in life.
Still, his adoptive mother said, she and her husband had high hopes for “Billy,” the 5-year-old boy they rescued from drug-addicted parents and brought into their home in 2003.
“We took that little boy in because we wanted his life to be fruitful, and we wanted him to have a future, and that was taken away by someone who thought it was OK to point a loaded gun that he shouldn't have even had,” Kay Jean Axel told Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates on Friday. “There is no justice, and there are no words.”
Mr. Axel, 20, of Erie, Mich. was shot to death on the afternoon of March 2 while sitting in a car with two other young men near Fern and Reen drives in West Toledo.
On Friday, Eliakim Yates, 18, of the 2800 block of West Laskey Road entered an Alford plea — not admitting guilt — to murder with a firearm specification. Judge Bates found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison with parole eligibility after he serves 16 years.
Dexter Phillips, an assistant county prosecutor, told the court that at about 1:15 p.m. March 2,Yates approached a car driven by Jordan Hudson. Mr. Axel was in the front passenger seat when Yates pulled a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun from his bookbag and fired once, striking Mr. Axel in the neck. He died “within seconds,” Mr. Phillips said.
Defense attorney James Popil told the court Yates had struggled with depression and had attempted suicide less than a month before the incident. He said Yates had been bullied at Whitmer High School, where he was in 11th grade at the time.
“One or more of the individuals involved in this case also had attended Whitmer, and there was some bullying issue that in some way played a part in what happened here, why my client chose the path of shooting a shotgun at an individual,” Mr. Popil said.
He pointed out that after Yates fired the fatal shot, Kevin Dazell, who was the back-seat passenger, fired two shots at Yates, striking him in the leg and arm.
Dazell, who was 17 at the time, previously pleaded guilty in Lucas County Juvenile Court to felonious assault with a gun specification for shooting Yates. He was sentenced April 12 by Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon to serve at least three years with the Department of Youth Services.
Yates apologized to Mr. Axel's family and to his own.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said. “I never intended to harm anyone.”
Mr. Phillips said afterward that he was unaware of any bullying claims, although he knew that Yates and his friends had an ongoing, long-standing dispute with another group of young men.
“I talked to everyone involved, and what's extremely sad about this is nobody knows what the whole dispute started over,” Mr. Phillips said. “I couldn't get a definitive answer from anyone. I heard it was over a girl. I head it was over a stolen bag of weed. It was senseless, absolutely senseless.”
Mrs. Axel pointed out that her son never attended Whitmer and, as far as she knew, did not know Yates.
Billy, she said, attended kindergarten through 12th grade in Erie-Mason Schools, graduating in 2016 from Mason High School. He played football and basketball in addition to running track. He loved computers and his black truck, she said.
Mrs. Axel said she was 47 and her husband 61 when she gave up her career to raise Billy and his younger brother.
“When they were removed from the home, my son had endured starvation and neglect. There was a meth lab in the basement,” Mrs. Axel said.
She said Billy was not perfect, but he was loved.
“Was I happy with some of the people he was running with? Absolutely not,” she said. “But no matter what he had done that was not the smartest thing, he did not deserve to be murdered.”
As part of the plea agreement with Yates, charges of felonious assault and carrying a concealed weapon were dismissed.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.
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