James Geran sentence to life without parole

Middletown man sentenced to life in prison says he was hired to shoot woman

Could more charges be coming?

The 46-year-old Middletown man was sentenced Thursday in Butler County Common Pleas Court after pleading guilty to aggravated murder for shooting his girlfriend’s mother, Sharon McCleary, in the head on June 13 and murder for the fatal shooting of Megan Motter the day before.

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The convicted felon shot Motter in the head, killed her and dumped her body off Woodsdale Road in Madison Twp. Sheriff’s deputies said Motter was a “business associate in criminal activity” with Geran. The investigation of Motter’s death led deputies to the Trenton apartment.

When deputies knocked on the door of the Sal Boulevard apartment, Geran shot at them, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.

Over the course of about two hours, Geran continued to fire between five to eight times at the deputies outside. Negotiators talked him into releasing two sisters, including one who was his girlfriend, Gina McCleary. She was not in the courtroom for sentencing Thursday.

However, when Geran let the second sister out, he immediately closed the door and deputies heard gunfire.

Geran then crawled out, having shot himself in the chin with a .380 caliber gun, according to sheriff’s deputies. Inside the apartment, deputies found McCleary dead.

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Despite the gunshot wound to the face, Geran was able to tell his version of the crimes to a forensic psychologist for a pre-sentence report.

“Mr. Geran reported being paid in drugs and cash by (a man) to kill … Megan, whom he shot while driving from Middletown to Cincinnati. He reported shooting her while (the man) was in the car and due to (the man) ‘freaking out’ dropped him off prior to disposing of the body,” Dr. Angela Ledgerwood of the Forensic Evaluation Service Center wrote in the evaluation obtained by the news agency.

Geran said he then picked up his girlfriend, Gina McCleary, Sharon’s daughter, and they went to Speedway for food and cigarettes then went to the Sal Boulevard residence where he “got high.”

During the sentencing hearing, Geran’s defense attorney, Lawrence Hawkins III, said he believed there is a possibility someone else could be charged with murder when asked by the judge about objections to destroying the gun in the case.

Hawkins said Friday that “it is up to law enforcement to decide about further investigation.”

Butler County Sheriff’s detectives said their investigation has not indicated the man in the car had any involvement in the killing. 

“It was rumored that he paid to have her (killed),” said Sgt. Rob Whitlock. “But nothing led us to him.”

The man cooperated fully with the investigation. Whitlock said when Geran was arrested he made no statements and did not indicate he had actually been hired to kill Motter.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser also said it is up to law enforcement to determine if more investigation is warranted.

“I am open to an continuing investigation in all cases. I believe in keeping an open mind,” Gmoser said. “But I rely on the police to do the investigation and bring it to me.”

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