Records: 2 charged in connection to Dayton officer’s death won’t face death penalty

Lionel Combs III (left) and Cahke Cortner
Lionel Combs III (left) and Cahke Cortner

Two men arrested and charged in connection to the shooting death of a Dayton Police detective will not face the death penalty.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion informing the court that it will not seek the death penalty for Cahke Cortner and Lionel Combs III. The two men are charged in connection to the November shooting death of Det. Jorge Del Rio.

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A request for comment sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office was unsuccessful Monday, the Columbus Day holiday for some government agencies.

Legal troubles for Cortner and Combs began in November when during a drug raid by the Drug Enforcement Agency and Dayton police, Del Rio was shot in the face and later died of his injuries. Authorities say Cortner and Combs were at the home during the shooting, but say it was their co-defendant, Nathan Goddard, who admitted to shooting Del Rio.

A decision whether to pursue the death penalty against Goddard has not been declared. Goddard’s attorneys have until Dec. 1 to provide the U.S. Attorney’s Office any mitigating evidence or arguments regarding whether the death penalty should be sought. Then, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was ordered to give a notice of whether it will seek the death penalty by April 1, according to court records.

Combs' defense attorney Kathryn Bowling declined to comment Monday when reached by the newspaper, while Cortner’s attorney Dennis Lieberman did release a statement.

“We’re thankful that the government did withdraw its demand for the death penalty, but beyond that, I really have no comment,” he said.

Lieberman also filed a motion renewing an attempt to free Cortner from pre-trial detention. Currently, Cortner is incarcerated at the Butler County Jail.

“This case is still serious, but not to the extent it was before the death penalty was eliminated,” the motion says.

The motion says Cortner has strong Dayton ties and that a combination of conditions like electronic home detention can ensure that the community is safe and that Cortner appears at future court hearings.

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Cortner and Combs attempted to be freed from jail pending their trial earlier this year, but both were denied.

A next court date in the case has not been set.

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