CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CR2012-06-0941
Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, Kimberly L. McManus, for plaintiff-appellee
Fred S. Miller, for defendant-appellant
F. Joseph Schiavone, for defendant-appellant
(¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Michael Jacob Ray, appeals his conviction in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas for the murder of his stepfather. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm appellant's conviction.
(¶ 2} On Father's Day, June 17, 2012, appellant's stepfather, Brian Schmidt, his mother, Bonnie Schmidt, and his two younger siblings left their home on Weeping Willow Drive in St. Clair Township, Butler County, Ohio to attend a baseball game. Appellant, age 18 and residing at his parent's home, did not attend the baseball game. Rather, appellant stayed home, drank a wine cooler and two beers, and watched movies with his friend and neighbor, David. David eventually left the residence, and sometime thereafter, appellant's family returned home.
(¶ 3} When appellant's family arrived at their residence, Brian was in a bad mood as the fam ily had been arguing about where to go out to eat for Father's Day. Upon entering the home, Brian and Bonnie immediately noticed the missing alcohol and confronted appellant. Appellant denied knowing what happened to the alcohol, but admitted that David, who Bonnie and Brian did not like, had been over. Angry, Brian stated that he was "going to go kick David's ass, " and he left the home to walk to David's house. After Brian left, appellant admitted to his mother that he had consumed the alcohol, and Bonnie sent her younger son to bring Brian back to the house.
(¶ 4} Once Brian returned, he entered appellant's bedroom to discuss appellant's underage drinking. Bonnie was present during this confrontation. Brian scolded appellant, telling him that an 18 year old should not be drinking. Appellant made a "smart" remark to Brian in response, commenting that he was not the one who had a DUI, so he did not see how Brian could tell him not to drink. Appellant's "smart" comment further angered Brian, and Brian, who was approximately 71 inches tall and weighed 215 pounds, chest bumped appellant back against the wall of appellant's bedroom without using his hands. Brian "got in appellant's face, " saying "You want to get froggy, little man? Are you going to hit me?" Appellant, who weighed 130 pounds, moved off the wall, put his hands on Brian's chest, and pushed Brian backwards. Brian then grabbed appellant and shoved him back "hard" against the side of appellant's dresser. The two men continued to argue with one another, shouting and yelling back and forth. At this time, Bonnie left the room briefly to tell her younger son, who had been walking towards appellant's bedroom, to go back to his own room.
(¶ 5} According to appellant, Brian and appellant's argument escalated when Brian began to repeatedly punch and hit him over the head. Brian's first punch to appellant's head caused appellant's glasses to fall off and break. After the first punch, appellant stated he put his head down and his hands up to ward off the blows. Appellant claimed that when Brian was striking him, he felt something metal hitting his head. Appellant thought the metal item was Brian's ring, but he was not positive as he was looking down during the assault. Appellant stated that Brian made contact with his head at least "four or five" times, and during that time appellant could not "think clearly" and he "started losing vision." Appellant claimed he began to panic and "freak out" so he reached behind himself and found a 5.25 inch long, unsheathed hunting knife that he had on top of his dresser. Appellant grabbed the knife by the handle, and without looking, "lunged" at Brian with the knife. Appellant stabbed Brian at a downward angle one time in what he thought was the chest area. Appellant stated that his intention in stabbing Brian was to get Brian off of him, but he did not want to hurt Brian. At the time he grabbed the knife, appellant claimed, "I was in fear for my safety. I thought [Brian] was going to do me great bodily harm, so I grabbed the knife to try to stop [Brian] from doing bodily harm."
(¶ 6} Appellant claimed that once he felt the knife enter Brian, he stopped and pulled it out. According to appellant, Brian continued to try and hit appellant a few more times before leaving appellant's room. Once Brian left appellant's bedroom, he collapsed in the kitchen and appellant yelled for his mother to call 9-1-1.
(¶ 7} Sometime during the altercation, Bonnie returned to appellant's bedroom. At this time, she saw Brian hitting appellant "over and over, " she heard Brian say something about a knife, and she saw blood. However, she was unsure whether Brian was stabbed before he hit appellant or after he hit appellant. Bonnie had tried to break up the fight, but she could not get between her husband and son, so she left the room to call 9-1-1. After leaving the room, Bonnie heard appellant yell, "Mom, call 911, " and at 4:41 p.m., Bonnie called for emergency assistance.
(¶ 8} Dispatcher Debbie Rednauer answered the call and was informed that the caller's husband was hurt and not breathing. Rednauer dispatched emergency personnel to the Schmidt's home. After the first call was abruptly ended, Rednauer placed a return call to the telephone number which made the original 9-1-1 call, but this call was not answered. Rednauer placed another return call, and this time, appellant answered the call. Appellant told Rednauer, "I'm a murderer. You need to arrest me. * * * I was caught drinking my dad's alcohol. I wasn't drunk, I just drunk a few of his beers. He came in and got mad and I just snapped. I stabbed him. * * * I'm willing to confess."
(¶ 9} Emergency personnel from the Butler County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene while appellant was on the phone with Rednauer. Deputies Hansford Spivey and Aaron Sorrell were the first to arrive at the scene. When they arrived at the residence, they found Brian lying in a large pool of blood in the kitchen, Bonnie lying ...