Thursday, May 25, 2000

Gunman gets eight years for killing

Neighbors had argued in card game

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON — James Roark slumped in his chair and stared as a Warren County Common Pleas judge on Wednesday sentenced him to eight years in prison for killing a neighbor he had been playing cards with.

        Mr. Roark, 61, last month was convicted of reckless homicide for shooting Jacqueline Sue Burns, whom he described as a friend.

        Judge P. Daniel Fedders gave Mr. Roark the maximum five years in prison on the reckless homicide charge and a mandatory three years because a gun was used in the crime.

        Mrs. Burns was shot Oct. 16 after she lost $200 to Mr. Roark in a card game and couldn't immediately pay. Mr. Roark had testified that he couldn't remember the shooting after consuming at least 22 beers and taking two or three nerve pills.

        “I lost an awful good friend in this situation,” Mr. Roark told the judge before being sentenced. “I can't remember more than I do.”

        Roger Staton, one of Mr. Roark's lawyers, said Mr. Roark did not intend to kill the woman who fixed him dinner the night before she died.

        “The evidence in no way indicated that Mr. Roark had a malicious intent toward the deceased,” Mr. Staton said. “The evidence clearly established that Mr. Roark did not know what he was doing at the time of this incident. He has a great deal of remorse for what he's done.”

        But Warren County Assistant Prosecutor James Beaton argued for the maximum sentence because Mr. Roark pulled the trigger twice and asked Mrs. Burns whether she was afraid to die.

        “This was not an accident,” Mr. Beaton said. “In a civilized society we have to show some responsibility.”

        After sentencing, the judge declined to hear Mr. Roark's decision on appealing the sentence. Mr. Staton would not say what that decision was.

        Friends of Mr. Roark would not comment on the sentence.


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