The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

August 28, 2013

Jury to deliberate third day in 1997 Ashtabula murder trial

Victim’s family anxiously waits for panel’s buzzer

JEFFERSON — The decisive signal from the jurors’ buzzer never sounded Tuesday.

John Drummond Jr.’s jurors had a question at 11:25 a.m., and then told Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey that they have agreed upon two charges but can’t come to an agreement on the other.

Drummond, 36, of Youngstown, faces two charges of aggravated murder and one count of kidnapping in connection with the 1997 shooting of Ronald “Maceo” Hull in Ashtabula. All charges come with firearm specifications.

“The process is slow ... absolute certainty can’t be expected,” Mackey said. “It’s desirable that you come to a decision ... It’s your duty to decide the case.”

After a bit more instruction, the judge sent them back in the jury room, but they completed the second day of secret deliberations without hitting the buzzer to declare they had a verdict on all three counts.

They will return at 9 a.m. today.

Hull’s family is anxious for a verdict, as well. They must wait around the courthouse, for fear of leaving and missing it.

The jurors are being asked to decide whether Drummond was the one of six men who fired the shot that killed Hull in the early morning hours of Feb. 9, 1997 outside a West 38th Street apartment. They also must decide if he kidnapped Hull, keeping him inside the apartment against his will.

The residents of the apartment, Troy Jones and his girlfriend, believed Hull stole a safe containing $!0,000 from the apartment while Jones was at a concert in Youngstown with Drummond, Eric Weaver and Jawann Evans, according to testimony at the trial. Jones received a phone call from his girlfriend, saying the safe was stolen while she went to the mall, according to testimony at the trial.

Jones and the men got their guns and headed north for Ashtabula, police said. They also called their friends, Stephen Boles and George Church, both of Ashtabula, and told them to round up Hull, according to testimony at the trial.

Boles and Church got in the car and went looking for Hull, according to testimony at the trial. Church testified that he brought two guns. Boles said he did not have a gun.

Word got to Hull that the men were looking for him and he hitched a ride with Monique Robinson of Ashtabula to the West 38th Street apartment, Robinson said. He was going to tell them he didn’t take the safe, she said on the witness stand.

Police said the men verbally and physically abused Hull, trying to get him to admit he took the safe. Neighbors heard mumbling, yelling and a gunshot, but no one called police, according to testimony at the trial.

At about 12:30 a.m., the fight between the men moved outside and Church struck Hull on the back of the head with one of his guns so hard that the gun broke, he said.

Hull fell to the ground, he said.

Church said he thought the alteration was over and as he walked to Boles’ car, he looked back and saw Drummond shoot Hull.

Boles testified he saw Drummond with Hull and then he heard two pops.

Special prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office said the witnesses’ statements were consistent, while Public Defender Marie Lane said Church and Boles couldn’t be believed because they got “the deal of the century.”

Lane was referring to the five men — Boles, Church, Weaver, Evans and Evans — who made a plea deal with prosecutors in the case, although only two testified at the trial.

In January, all the men, including Drummond, were charged with murder and kidnapping in the Hull case. Then, in July, the other five pleaded guilty to kidnapping in exchange for information and testimony. They also received a lesser sentence.

Lane also said police lost much of the evidence over the years.

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