A 19-year-old Clayton man was sentenced to death Monday for killing a former friend during a robbery and disposing of the body in woods in Preble County.
A jury deliberated six hours before deciding Austin Myers should be executed for his crimes.
Judge Donald Oda II will hold a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Oct. 16, on the other charges Myers was convicted of during the first phase of the trial and to decide if the death penalty should be imposed.
Myers would be the youngest person on Ohio’s Death Row.
Last week, he was found guilty - with death penalty specifications - of aggravated murder in the death of Justin Back, 18, a 2013 Waynesville High School graduate 10 days from enlisting in the Navy.
Key testimony came from Myers’ co-defendant and friend, Timothy Mosley, 19, of Clayton, who said he stabbed Back 21 times while they wrestled on Back’s kitchen floor, but that Myers, who was friends with Back during their early teens, was the key planner.
On Monday, prosecutors urged the jury to sentence Myers to death, pointing to evidence showing how Myers spent a day and a half planning the crime, overcoming setbacks and altering the scheme several times.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell reminded the jury that Myers and Mosley opted not to break into Back’s home while he and his family were gone.
“Austin Myers chose to kill,” Fornshell said. “As a result he forfeited his right to live.”
Rather than feel sorry for Myers, defense lawyer Greg Howard encouraged the jury to sentence him to a lifetime of mornings waking up in prison to face what he had done.
“Every day he’ll have to wake up and think about where he put himself,” Howard said.
Howard emphasized how prosecutors agreed to drop death penalty specifications against Mosley in exchange for his testimony. Mosley still faces life in prison without parole.
Howard also pointed to Myers’s youth and lack of a criminal record.
Before the jury’s deliberations , Myers’s family described him as a gifted pianist who had high academic aptitude and a happy childhood, growing up as the oldest of five children in Waynesville. Myers played soccer, baseball and football in youth leagues and at school.
“As a toddler, he could toddle over and point out middle C, no problem,” his mother, Danielle Copeland, said. “He took to it quite well.”
Myers played piano in recitals and composed music, according to family members. He was also a young entrepreneur who made up business cards he distributed to neighbors, according to testimony.
“I was very proud,” Copeland said.
His problems apparently began after he moved to the Dayton area in 2009 with his father, after his parents split up. Myers cut himself and shot himself in the leg with a pellet gun. He was treated as an inpatient for a week in a psychiatric unit in Kettering and never graduated from Northmont High School.
Prosecutors projected a smiling photo of Back during their closing arguments. Howard projected a series of smiling photos from Myers’s childhood, ending with a serious-looking 11th grade school photo.
“He just looks very unhappy,” Copeland said. “It’s like a different kid.”
While disappointed by the case, Myers’s father described him as a good mentor and mediator for the blended family they were part of in Clayton.
“I think he played the role of big brother very well,” said Greg Myers, a UPS driver. “I love my son very much. He’s very important to me.”
Myers went to the witness stand to deliver a statement to the jury, but was not subjected to any questions from prosecutors.
“I’m sorry that this happened. I know this doesn’t bring Justin back,” he told the jury. “I wish I could go back in time and stop this.”
Myers urged the jury to spare his life for his family’s sake.
“If you choose for me to die, it’s only going to cause more pain and suffering for another family. Not me. I won’t feel anything,” he said.