Slain teen’s mother: Killer’s sentence ‘should terrify thousands’

Jessica Combs hopes a prison sentence handed down last week to her son’s killer is the least he is punished.

Kylen Gregory, 19, was sentenced Thursday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court for the 2016 fatal shooting of Kettering Fairmont student Ronnie Bowers.

But because Gregory was convicted of reckless homicide and other charges instead of the more serious charge of murder, his case now must go back for a hearing in Montgomery County Juvenile Court.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Langer on Thursday handed down a sentence of 11 years minus time served for Gregory. He has already been held for nearly three years, which means he would serve eight more.

He has been behind bars since shortly after the Sept. 4, 2016 shooting that killed the Fairmont High School student, who – Langer said – was “a 16-year-old boy that certainly any parent would be proud of.”

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Gregory was a juvenile at the time of the shooting, but his case was sent to common pleas court because of the murder charge.

The sentence made Combs livid because she had pleaded with the judge Thursday to give Gregory a maximum adult-court penalty of 41 years in prison. But the eight years is a better, she said, than what could happen if the juvenile court hearing results in Gregory’s case become a juvenile court matter entirely. If that is the decision, the juvenile court process could see Gregory set free at age 21.

“If he does serve as a juvenile, that means his record will be sealed,” Combs said.

“And him killing my son didn’t matter, didn’t mean anything,” she added. “And it would be as if Ronnie never existed. And that is sad, that is sickening and that is despicable. At this point we have to hope that it won’t stay in juvenile (court), that the sentence handed down will stay in adult court.”

The case is expected to be transferred to juvenile court with what the court system calls an amenability phase likely to start in the coming weeks, Juvenile Court Administrator Eric Shafer said.

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Likely this summer, a hearing would be held to see if Gregory would be more suited for juvenile or adult rehabilitation, Shafer said.

Bowers and Gregory both attended Fairmont High School, but did not know each other and neither was directly involved the Labor Day weekend disputes that resulted in shooting on Willowdale Avenue. The shooting was Kettering’s first gun-related homicide since 2007, according to court records.

Gregory was convicted in November by a jury of reckless homicide and discharging a firearm on or near a prohibited premise. The jury did not find Gregory guilty of murder and deadlocked on five felonious assault counts.

Gregory pleaded guilty in April to five felonious assault charges that came with lesser penalties than he would have faced if convicted in a retrial that was scheduled for May.

Prosecutors wanted at least a 35-year term, but Langer said that “would violate the principles of sentencing.”

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The defense asked for minimum and concurrent terms. Gregory did not have a juvenile court record prior to the shooting and Langer said he found Gregory “remorseful.” The sentence, under Ohio law, was consistent with the crimes of which Gregory was convicted, Langer said.

But Combs predicted Gregory “will commit another violent act and there will be another victim’s family with another dead child.” The sentence by Langer, she said, “should terrify thousands of families.”

Gregory testified at trial that he took a loaded, stolen handgun to AlterFest, where some of his friends got into a dispute with someone in Bowers’ group. Seeking to avoid the confrontation, Bowers and his friends walked back to Willowdale, where his car was parked, court witnesses said.

Gregory’s group then tracked them down on Willowdale, a second incident followed with Gregory still in possession of the loaded handgun, he testified.

Bowers began driving away, Gregory said, and he pulled out the gun and fired at Bowers’ car to send “a signal.” Instead, it wounded Bowers in the head and he died from the injuries.


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