Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Richland
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2015 CR 0970
Plaintiff-Appellee GARY BISHOP PROSECUTING ATTORNEY JOSEPH C.
SNYDER ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR.
Defendant-Appellant WILLIAM T. CRAMER.
Patricia A. Delaney, P. J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon.
John W. Wise, J. Judges.
Appellant Austin Jones appeals his conviction, in the Court
of Common Pleas, Richland County, for murder, attempted
murder, and other offenses. Appellee is the State of Ohio.
The relevant facts leading to this appeal are as follows.
On November 3, 2015, Cedric Daniels and Appellant Jones (aka
"Julio") went to the American Legion on Harmon
Avenue in Mansfield for "dollar shot night."
Brianna Daniels eventually joined them. Brianna is
Cedric's sister and was at that time appellant's
girlfriend. Appellant often stayed overnight at Brianna's
residence, but he did not reside there. According to Brianna,
appellant made money by selling drugs and "getting
checks." Tr. at 231. Brianna was also a customer in
appellant's alleged drug sale activities. On the date in
question, Brianna and appellant had already been consuming
alcohol and cocaine, or as Brianna described it, "***
all throughout the night, and through the day, drinking and
kicking it." Tr. at 233.
Kelsey Leonhard, an acquaintance who occasionally provided
transportation services in exchange for cash or drugs, gave
everyone rides that night and functioned as the designated
Rena Daniels, Brianna and Cedric's maternal aunt, was the
bar and kitchen manager at the American Legion. She observed
that appellant was "drinking pretty fast that
night." Tr. at 184. She testified that she was a former
user of cocaine, and that she thought his rapid drinking was
a result of him being high on something. At some point in the
evening, someone informed her that appellant and Brianna were
arguing out on the dance floor; however, they eventually left
The aforesaid argument, apparently caused by appellant buying
a drink for a female customer, carried over into the gravel
parking lot. According to Brianna, appellant felt he had been
disrespected, so he choked her and "slammed" her to
the ground, causing abrasion injuries to her hand and knee.
Tr. at 237-240.
Brianna's cousin, Travis "Terrell" Daniels,
happened to be in the area. He saw something was wrong and
ran over to see what was happening. It looked to him like
appellant was trying to get Brianna back into the car, but he
did not see appellant trying to choke her or throw her down.
Appellant, not realizing who Travis was, then angrily went to
the car the group was using that night and retrieved a
pistol. Appellant then stumbled and fell to the ground, but
got back on his feet. Travis then jumped for cover into a
friend's van. After Travis got in the van, appellant
pointed what appeared to him to be a gun at the vehicle. The
van was then driven from the scene.
Brianna and Cedric managed to get appellant temporarily
calmed down. Appellant began crying and apologizing. Brianna
decided to leave the area with appellant, as she believed
that it would help to keep things peaceable. Appellant,
Brianna, Cedric, and Kelsey then left together to go to
Brianna's house on Cleveland Avenue.
The arguing resumed during the trip home. At some point,
Brianna got out of the car and threatened to walk the rest of
the way, but she got back in and the trip continued.
When appellant, Brianna, Cedric, and Kelsey arrived at the
residence, Brianna's two children and her mother were
there. Also present were Tyrique Nettles and Qadree Gray, two
adult relatives of Brianna's children. When Brianna got
out of the car, she observed her cousin Lacey and a friend
sitting in another vehicle parked near the house. An argument
briefly resulted between Lacey and appellant, so Lacey and
her friend left the premises. Brianna entered the house, got
into another argument with her mother, and then went outside
to cool off. After Cedric spoke with his mother and told her
he would handle the situation, appellant's mother left
for the evening.
When Brianna re-entered the house, she went upstairs, the
layout of which consisted of a bathroom, Brianna's
bedroom, Cedric's bedroom (which included an older-model
television set), and the bedroom for Brianna's two
children. One of the children was already trying to go to
sleep, while the other was with Qadree and Tyrique, watching
a basketball game in Cedric's room. Meanwhile, the
arguing between Brianna and appellant resumed upstairs in her
bedroom. After Brianna closed the door, appellant started
demanding money from her. He also punched her several times,
leaving a lump on her face. According to Brianna, appellant
then retrieved a gun from his orange and black book bag.
Appellant also began cussing at Brianna, so she commenced
running out of the bedroom, toward the children's
bedroom. As she ran, appellant opened fire and struck her
with a bullet that entered her back, causing a lung
contusion. As the fracas spilled into the hallway, appellant
continued firing, hitting Cedric with two rounds to the
As Brianna tried to get away, appellant yelled: "Bitch,
you disrespect me." Tr. at 259. Appellant caught her
after she got to the children's bedroom and dragged her
back to her bedroom, past the spot where Cedric was lying on
the ground. Id. Once they were back in the room,
appellant started choking Brianna against the wall, telling
her: "Bitch, you going to die tonight." Tr. at 259.
Eventually, Brianna lost consciousness from the choking.
When the shots commenced, Qadree (the brother of the father
of Brianna's children) and Tyrique (Qadree's cousin)
did their best to shield Brianna's children. They
thereafter saw appellant packing two bags. Appellant then
exited the house with at least one bag. Qadree and Tyrique
each called 911.
Officers from the Mansfield Police Department and other law
enforcement agencies soon arrived at the house. Brianna, who
had regained consciousness, came outside to the officers,
yelling for help. Cedric was found lying partially in the
hallway on the second floor. Two bullets and one shell casing
were discovered on the second floor and submitted for
testing. Brianna's bedroom was in disarray and her blood
was in various parts of the room. The witnesses believed
there had been four shots and thought the shooter's name
was "Julio" (appellant's nickname). Tr. at 131.
Brianna told police that the shooter was named Austin. Tr. at
231-232. He was described as a tall and thin black male with
Cedric was transported to the hospital, where he was
pronounced dead as a result of two gunshot wounds to the
chest. Brianna Daniels was also treated for a gunshot wound
to the back. She also had a wound on the back of her arm and
an abrasion on her hand.
Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler from Summit County
performed an autopsy on Cedric Daniels on November 5, 2015.
There were two gunshot wounds on the right side of his chest.
There were entrance and exit wounds. She determined that
"we don't have any characteristics that indicate the
weapon was held close to the individual at the time it was
fired." Tr. at 512. Also, the wounds did not indicate
that they were caused by ricocheting, and Cedric had no
defensive wounds that would suggest an altercation or
physical struggle prior to being shot. Tr. at 514-515.
The day after the shooting, police officers returned to the
area to search for additional evidence. Officers found a
vacant house near the scene of the shooting and proceeded to
search it. Inside a closet in the vacant house, officers
found appellant's orange book bag and black duffle bag,
which contained his clothing.
When appellant had started shooting, Kelsey (the designated
driver that night) jumped out of a second-floor window. While
Kelsey was outside of the house after jumping, she saw
appellant running down an alleyway with an orange backpack.
Later, while Kelsey was at the police station, a call came in
on her cell phone from appellant's number. She was too
afraid to answer, but officers requested that she text
appellant instead. In one of the text messages, appellant
offered Kelsey $100.00 and extra gas money or drugs if she
would pick him up in Columbus and drive him to Indiana.
Officers then arranged for Kelsey to pick appellant up in an
unmarked police vehicle. When appellant came out of the house
at the Columbus location, officers arrested him. He had no
observable wounds on or about his body.
Police officers made contact with appellant's parents and
were able to ascertain a general area where the gun may have
been hidden. While the police were searching alleyways near
Brianna's residence, a concerned citizen told them about
seeing someone run up to his house on the night of the
murder. Police then examined the adjacent house and
discovered some vinyl siding leaning up against a wall. They
found the gun at this spot, a "45 Kahr"
semi-automatic. The gun was loaded with one round in the
chamber, and there were two rounds in the magazine. The
maximum number of rounds the gun could hold in the magazine
is six. Test fires of appellant's gun revealed that the
casing found at the crime scene matched the weapon.
Investigators also found pictures on appellant's phone of
him wearing a baseball cap similar to the one recovered with
appellant's orange backpack and duffle bag, and holding a
firearm similar to the one tied to the shooting.
On December 18, 2015, appellant was indicted by the Richland
County Grand Jury for murder, attempted murder, two counts of
felonious assault, and having a weapon under a disability.
The matter proceeded to a jury trial conducted on June 16
through 22, 2016. The State presented twenty-three witnesses,
including Brianna, Kelsey, Qadree, Tyrique, Travis, and Rena.
Appellant, advancing a theory of self-defense, took the stand
as the sole defense witness, as further discussed
infra. The jury was given a self-defense instruction
by the trial court. Tr. at 807-810. The court also permitted
a jury view of the premises on Cleveland Avenue. See
Tr. at 195.
After hearing the evidence and arguments, the jury convicted
appellant of the following: (1) the murder of Cedric Daniels,
R.C. 2903.02(A), an unclassified felony; (2) the attempted
murder of Brianna Daniels, R.C. 2923.02(A) and R.C.
2903.02(A), a first-degree felony; (3) felonious assault with
a deadly weapon against Brianna Daniels, R.C. 2903.11(A)(2),
a second-degree felony; (4) felonious assault causing serious
physical harm against Brianna Daniels in violation of R.C.
2903.11(A)(1), a second-degree felony; and (5) having a
weapon while under disability in violation of R.C.
2923.13(A)(1), a third-degree felony. Additionally, the ...