The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 23, 2012

Conneaut man pleads guilty in murder attempt

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  

 A Conneaut man entered guilty pleas to seven charges including attempted aggravated murder Monday morning in Common Pleas Judge Gary Yost’s courtroom, County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said. 

James S. Kennedy, 63, of 122 Thomas Drive, entered the guilty pleas, in the form of an Alford plea, relating to indictments that included attempted aggravated murder, attempted murder and five counts of felonious assault.

The Alford plea means he pleads guilty but doesn’t admit the facts of the case, Sartini said.

Sartini said the incident was the result of an on-going dispute between a Pierpont man and Kennedy. Kennedy spent time at his mother’s home near the home of the Wayne Proffitt Jr., who was shot on June 11, 2011. He said a winter incident involving tire marks on Kennedy’s mother’s property started the chain of events that led to the shooting.

Sartini said Proffitt’s vehicle accidentally went on to the Kennedy property, creating several tracks on the property.

“In the spring of 2011 Mr. Kennedy stopped Mr. Proffitt Jr. on the road,” Sartini said. He said Kennedy wanted the tire tracks fixed and Proffitt agreed to but said he would need time to get the money together.

Several days before the June 11 shooting, Sartini said Kennedy approached Proffitt again and said he wanted the tracks fixed.

Sartini said Proffitt was driving along Rick Road, the borderline between Monroe and Pierpont townships, with his sister, Kim Hollis, when on June 11 when things escalated into violence.

Sartini said Hollis waved to Kennedy, who became enraged and went to his car and chased them down Rick Road. “They sped up to get away and (Proffitt) Jr. sees him (Kennedy) pull off into (a saw mill driveway),” he said.

Proffitt then sees a bullet bounce off the dash board of the car, after it passed through him, Sartini said. He said the bullet entered the trunk of the car, grazed a car seat, in which a 3-month-old child was seated, before going through the victim.

A second 18-month-old child was also seated in the back seat of the car, Sartini said.

He said Hollis drove him to the nearest house where a 911 call was made for law enforcement and medical help.

Proffitt was driven to UH Conneaut Medical Center and then flown to Hamot Medical Center in Erie. Sartini said the victim had life threatening injuries and eventually lost part of a lung and his spleen. Proffitt has made a recovery, he said.

Sartini said he and chief assistant prosecutor Harold Specht were prepared to try the case Monday morning when the plea deal was offered.

He said the plea is a fair resolution to the case. Sartini said the victim and his family agreed to the plea deal.

 Sartini said it saved the state money because the case did not need to be tried. 

He said a mandatory 3-year sentence on the gun specification will have to be served and the prosecutor’s office has recommended three years to be served for concurrent sentences on the seven counts.

Yost will have final say on the matter during sentencing which will be scheduled within 60 days following a pre-sentence investigation by the Ashtabula County Probation Department, Sartini said.