Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
Appeal from Common Pleas Court T.C. NO. 14CR2059/3
R. NOTHSTINE, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee.
FRANCISCO E. LUTTECKE, and CHARLYN BOHLAND, Attorneys for
1} D.F., a minor, was found guilty after a bench
trial in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, General
Division, of aggravated assault, an inferior offense of
felonious assault, and voluntary manslaughter, an inferior
offense of murder. The trial court merged the two charges and
sentenced D.F. to a mandatory term of eleven years in prison
for voluntary manslaughter. D.F. was 16 years old at the time
of the offenses.
2} D.F. raises five assignments on appeal. He claims
that (1) the trial court erred in using a prior juvenile
adjudication to impose a mandatory prison term, (2) the trial
court erred in failing to suppress statements that he made to
the police; (3) the trial court erred in imposing a maximum
sentence, (4) the trial court erred in failing to sentence
him in accordance with R.C. 2152.121, and (5) the juvenile
court abused its discretion in finding that he was not
amenable to treatment in the juvenile system.
3} As discussed below, we need not address
D.F.'s specific assignments of error in light of the Ohio
Supreme Court's ruling in State v. Aalim, Ohio
Sup. Ct. Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-8278 and our case law
interpreting R.C. 2152.12(I). The trial court's judgment
will be reversed, and the matter will be remanded to the
juvenile court for further proceedings.
Background and Procedural History
4} In its verdict following the bench trial, the
trial court found the following facts.
5} In the early morning hours of June 8, 2014,
35-year-old Ryan Adams approached D.F.'s mother and
D.F.'s fifteen-year-old sister as they stood outside
their home in Dayton. Adams stated to them that
"everybody needs a playmate, do you want to play with
me?" or similar sexually-suggestive words. D.F.'s
mother and sister indicated they did not, and Adams walked
some distance away, but stopped, turned around with his arms
folded, and stared at them. D.F.'s mother and sister
became "worried and anxious, " and the sister
proceeded to call D.F. (her sixteen-year-old brother), Harley
Farrell (the boyfriend of her maternal aunt),  or both,
requesting that D.F. and Farrell return to the area. (D.F.,
Farrell, and the aunt had walked down the street to see some
"commotion" that was occurring there.)
6} D.F. and Farrell arrived separately but at
approximately the same time, and D.F. began questioning his
mother and sister regarding the nature of their concern. Upon
learning that Adams had made his suggestive remarks and had
yet to leave the neighborhood, D.F. became "angry and
furious, " and he and Farrell attempted to locate Adams.
D.F. and Farrell found Adams nearby, and Adams returned
voluntarily with D.F. and Farrell to D.F.'s home. When
D.F.'s sister confirmed that "he was the guy"
who had made the sexually-suggestive remarks, D.F. became
even more enraged and furious, and he demanded that Adams
leave the neighborhood and never disrespect his family again.
7} Adams "did not take kindly" to
D.F.'s demands. Rather, Adams pulled off his shirt and
challenged D.F., a "much younger and smaller"
individual, to a fight; Adams called D.F. a "punk"
and spewed a stream of profanity and epithets. D.F. and
Adams, "in mutual combat, squared off in the
street." Ultimately, D.F. struck Adams several times in
the face, dropping Adams to his buttocks on the grass next to
the street. Adams was down only momentarily and regained his
feet. Then, after the two combatants "exchanged further
epithets and other unpleasantries, " Adams did not
re-engage D.F., but instead turned and walked away from D.F.,
ending the "mutual combat." (The trial court
expressly rejected, as not credible, testimony that Adams did
not walk away and disengage.)
8} As Adams walked away, a still-enraged D.F. came
up behind Adams, striking Adams with a right-handed
"haymaker" which landed against Adams's right
temple area. Adams was immediately rendered unconscious, and
D.F. then grabbed Adams around the waist and flipped him
backward, driving him head first into the pavement. With
Adams "unconscious and defenseless on the pavement,
" D.F. struck Adams in the face and head several more
times. Farrell, who had not been involved in the altercation
up to this point, kicked Adams's head as Adams lay
unconscious on the ground.
9} At approximately 4:30 a.m., the police were
dispatched to the scene on a "medical assistance"
call. Officer Harry Dilley found Adams unconscious on the
sidewalk, and he initially did not know if Adams's
condition was the result of an assault or a seizure. Adams
was transported to Miami Valley Hospital, where he had
surgery to remove pressure on his brain. Adams remained in a
coma and had respiratory failure, both due to damage to his
brain stem. The right side of Adams's skull, Adams's
nose, and the left side of Adams's jaw and eye socket
were also broken, and he had various scrapes and bruises.
Adams never regained consciousness.
10} After his stay at Miami Valley Hospital, Adams
was treated at Drake Hospital in Cincinnati, then transported
to Liberty Nursing Facility. He ultimately was transferred to
Hospice. Adams died on August 27, 2014 as a result of the
blunt force trauma to the right side of his head. The trial
court rejected, as "utterly incredible, "
D.F.'s argument that Farrell's kick to Adams's
head as Adams lay unconscious was, alone, the fatal blow.
11} Dayton Police Detective Rod Roberts, a member of
the homicide squad, began an investigation into the assault
on Adams at approximately 7:30 p.m. on June 8, the day of the
assault. Within a couple days, Roberts identified Farrell and
D.F. as suspects. On the morning of June 10, 2014, Roberts
asked Officer Mitch Olmsted, who had worked for approximately
20 years in the neighborhood where the assault occurred, to
locate D.F. and Farrell. Olmsted did so, and he (Olmsted) and
Officer Edmond Trick brought D.F. and Farrell to the police
department for interviews.
12} During D.F.'s interview (at approximately
9:30 a.m.), D.F. initially stated that Farrell was the
primary aggressor and that Farrell had assaulted Adams due to
statements Adams had made about Farrell's mother.
Detective Roberts stopped the interview with D.F. and went
back to D.F.'s neighborhood to interview people about the
events. Roberts concluded that D.F.'s statements were
13} Detective Roberts returned to the police
department and interviewed Farrell. The interview led Roberts
to believe that D.F. was the primary suspect. Roberts
re-interviewed D.F. at approximately 3:00 p.m., at which time
D.F. admitted to hitting Adams, picking Adams up and
"dunking" him while Adams was unconscious, and
hitting Adams a few more times after Adams hit the ground.
D.F. wrote a written statement and gave written responses to
Roberts's written follow-up questions. Roberts took
photographs of injuries to D.F.'s hands (cuts, scrapes,
and swollen fingers and knuckles) and left elbow (a scrape
that D.F. said occurred when he slammed Adams to the
sidewalk). D.F. was placed under arrest.
14} The following day (June 11), D.F. was charged by
complaint with felonious assault in juvenile court. On June
27, 2014, the State filed a motion, pursuant to R.C.
2152.10(B) and 2152.12(B), to transfer the matter to the
General Division so that D.F. could be tried as an adult. On
July 30, the juvenile court held a probable cause hearing, at
which time D. F. waived his right to present testimony on
probable cause. In an August 4, 2014 decision, the juvenile
court concluded that D.F. was more than 14 years old at the
time of the offense, that the act alleged would be a felony
if committed by an adult, that sufficient evidence exists
within the statement of facts as detailed by the State to
find probable cause, and that there was probable cause to