Jury selection begins today in the murder trial of a Kettering teen more than two years after the fatal shooting of a Fairmont High School student during a hot holiday weekend.
The case against Kylen Gregory in the deadly shooting of Ronnie Bowers during Labor Day weekend in 2016 has weaved its way through juvenile and common pleas courts, twice being slowed by Ohio Supreme Court rulings. The trial also was sidetracked this spring just weeks before a planned May 7 court date.
Gregory and Bowers were two 16-year-olds who did not know each other, but became the central figures in Kettering’s first gun-related homicide since 2007.
On Sept. 4, 2016, police said Bowers — called an innocent bystander — was shot in the back of the head about 9 p.m. on Willowdale Avenue while driving away with friends involved in a “beef” with Gregory’s group that started a few blocks away at AlterFest.
Bowers died two days later, hours after Gregory’s first court appearance.
Since then, the defendant, now 18, has been in juvenile detention, where he’s being held on a $1 million bond since his case was transferred in July 2017 to adult court. He has pleaded not guilty two counts of murder, five counts of felonious assault and one count of discharging a firearm at or near a prohibited premise.
“He’s doing well and he’s looking forward to his day in court,” defense attorney Benjamin Swift said last week.
Attempts to reach prosecutors last week regarding the case were unsuccessful.
Swift declined to say if Gregory will testify.
Two people who are expected to take the stand are Miles Heizer and Jessica Combs, the mother of Bowers.
Heizer, 20, is serving time in prison after being convicted on an unrelated charge. He has been subpoenaed by prosecutors after pleading guilty in May to a tampering charge, becoming the third defendant to admit to a crime in connection with Bowers’ shooting.
Swift declined to comment on Heizer’s influence on the case.
Two minor males who said they were with Gregory in a car driven by Heizer on Willowdale the night Bowers was shot pleaded guilty in juvenile court in November 2016. They each admitted to two counts of felony tampering with evidence and one count each of misdemeanor assault and aggravated menacing.
Both teen witnesses have also been subpoenaed.
The jury also is expected to hear from Combs. She has been a fixture in the courtroom at each step in the case and indicated she plans to be there throughout the trial, which court officials said is expected to last at least five days.
Combs declined last week to comment about the case. In the days following the shooting, she said, “I hope justice is served.”
“One day soon all of those involved will have to look at me in my eyes,” Combs said then. “They will have to hear what I have to say to them.”
She also gave emotional testimony when the case was still in juvenile court.
The process of transferring juvenile cases to adult court commonly takes about six months, depending on a number of variables, said Eric Shafer, Montgomery County Juvenile Court assistant administrator.
“It’s hard to say that’s a standard that’s always met,” he said, “because there are so many things that can happen outside of that….process.”
Two state Supreme Court rulings slowed the case, said Shafer and University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister.
“That’s very uncommon to happen,” Hoffmeister said said of the two state rulings.
On Dec. 22, 2016, the court ruled the mandatory transfer of juveniles to adult courts unconstitutional, requiring an additional hearing for Gregory.
On May 25, 2017, during the process of Gregory’s amenability hearing, an Ohio Supreme Court with two new members reversed its December ruling, making the defendant’s hearing moot.
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