One adult and three juveniles are facing murder and aggravated robbery charges in Warren County in connection to the death of a Centerville man, even though law enforcement officials don’t believe any of the four pulled the trigger of the gun that shot him.
Dakota Cox, 18, Kayla Carmack, 17, Logan Dean, 16, and Jacob Hicks, 16, are charged in the shooting death of Mason Trudics. Warren County Sheriff’s Office officials said Trudics, along with those charged, planned and orchestrated a plot to lure, rob and kidnap an individual at a home on Oregonia Road on Dec. 13.
Instead, the individual also had a firearm, the sheriff’s office said, and defended himself against the attack. Trudics was fatally shot, while Dean was shot in the chest but is expected to survive.
Police don’t suspect any of the defendants as the person who pulled the trigger and killed Trudics, but they are the ones who are facing long prison sentences.
Charging suspects who didn’t actually kill anyone with murder isn’t unusual, University of Dayton Law Professor Tom Hagel said, if someone died while those charged committed a felony.
The application of the ‘felony murder rule’ is used by prosecutors in Ohio regularly, Hagel said. But, this case is a bit different.
“The twist, in this case, is the person who pulled the trigger is the intended victim,” Hagel said. “Usually, it’s one of the perpetrators who pulls the trigger, and then they are all charged with the same crime.”
Also complicating the case are claims by lawyers for Hicks and Cox during their arraignments that their client wasn’t there during the shooting.
On Friday, Jon Paul Rion told the Dayton Daily News the case could “pivot” on a possible “abandonment” defense.
While declining to get into the specifics pf this case, Rion said someone planning to commit a crime who has a “change of heart” can through their actions provide a defense in court.
“It’s clearly an issue we are looking into,” Rion said.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell did not respond to a request to comment on abandonment being a viable defense in the case.
The Dayton Daily News has sought records detailing the allegations against the suspects — specifically an affidavit about how investigators came to their conclusion and how law enforcement decided to charge the suspects. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office records denied those newspaper requests.
Hagel said the defendants not being at the scene of the shooting can help their case in front of a jury, but they could still be found guilty if prosecutors prove they played a role in planning or orchestrating the original aggravated robbery attempt.
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“They still could be charged if they can show, for example, the one or two people who were allegedly not there but they were in on the planning it — that makes them just as liable,” he said. “In terms of a jury, it makes their case a little bit better for the defendant because they can say ‘We weren’t there. Hey look, we didn’t plan it and we didn’t want any part of it. We were not part of it.’”
“The bottom line is if the state can show that (Trudics) wouldn’t have died ‘but for’ them attempting the aggravated robbery, they can be found guilty,” Hagel said.