Anthony Stargell Jr. grew up in a dysfunctional family, has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, struggled to read and was raised by grandparents, an uncle and “the streets,” according to testimony Monday in the death penalty-eligible sentencing phase of Stargell’s murder trial.
One of Stargell’s grandmothers testified that the 14 children born to her daughter — Stargell’s mother — were “doomed from the womb” because of her lack of love, attention and caring. Family members said Stargell’s birth name was Antonio Nino Brown, a reference to a drug dealer in the 1991 movie New Jack City.
A jury last week found Stargell, 23, of Dayton, guilty of three counts of aggravated murder in the killing of 54-year-old Dayton businessman Tommy Nickles in April 2012. The jury heard opening statements from prosecutors and defense attorneys as it weighs aggravating circumstances against mitigating factors before deciding on what type of sentence Stargell will get.
Stargell was shown on surveillance video twice shooting Nickles in the head at his business, Quality One Electric, 838 S. Main St., on April 2, 2012. Stargell was found guilty on all counts that included attempting to set fire to Nickles’ business, stealing Nickles’ van, taking surveillance equipment and killing Nickles’ dog, Rusty. Stargell testified he had a drug-dealing agreement with Nickles and that he thought Nickles was reaching for a gun just before the shooting.
After considering whether or not the state has met its burden on the aggravating circumstances that merit the death penalty, Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory Singer told the jury it can’t consider anything about Nickles’ dog and that it has four sentencing options:
- Life without the chance of parole for 25 years
- Life without the chance of parole for 30 years
- Life without the possibility of parole
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During opening statements, prosecutor Robert Deschler told jurors: “You’re going to hear testimony from some family members that may be emotional… . Your responsibility, your duty is to deliberate, free of sympathy or emotion for either the victim or the defendant in this case.”
The prosecution presented no witnesses and rested pending admittance of exhibits.
Defense attorney Marshall Lachman told the jury: “You will hear evidence that Anthony is a product of his dysfunctional and unhealthy environment and history, that he is an emotionally damaged and neurologically impaired individual.”
Stargell’s mother, two grandmothers, brother and an uncle all testified in Monday morning’s session.
His mother, Tonya Bailey, testified that she had 14 children from 14 different fathers and that she escaped from a mental health hospital after being admitted after her brother was killed in 1992.”I snorted cocaine,” Bailey said, adding that when she was pregnant with Stargell she drank “every day” and that drugs were present in Stargell’s body at birth.
Bailey said she never had custody of Stargell, and that of her seven living sons, five are incarcerated. On cross-examination, Bailey testified that Stargell “had a good life” being raised by his father’s family.
Stargell’s father also spent much of Stargell’s childhood incarcerated. Stargell’s father and two of his father’s brothers are currently serving federal prison sentences.
Stargell’s maternal grandmother, Marsha Brown, testified that Stargell and his brothers and sisters “had a hard life” and that Bailey “never gave them” love.
Witnesses said Stargell was removed from several schools due to behavioral problems, became isolated and angry after coming out of the Dept. of Youth services and would falsely accuse family members of hurting him.
Stargell’s brother, Anthony Brown, 24, testified that both he and Stargell were raised in the streets and first got in legal trouble before they were teenagers. Brown, who is serving a prison sentence, said that he covered for Stargell’s lack of reading skills in church so his brother wouldn’t get teased.
“Growing up, he was lost; I was, too,” Brown said. “We never had no fair chance.”