Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Ringer's statement: Shot ex-girlfriend by accident

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tony Ringer told police he met with his ex-girlfriend a few days before Christmas because he was afraid she might harm herself. But the popular downtown Cincinnati barbershop owner said his attempt to save her ended with a fatal gunshot.

        In the taped statement he gave police Dec. 21, Mr. Ringer said the gun went off while he struggled to take it away from Cassandra Betts, 25, of Fairfield.

        The shot left Ms. Betts bleeding to death in the front seat of her car outside a Woodlawn car-repair shop.

        “I tugged on it. I pushed the trigger,” Mr. Ringer said in the statement, which was played Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. “I swear to God I did not mean to.”

        Mr. Ringer's statement was made public Monday as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued about whether a jury should be allowed to hear it at the Westwood man's murder trial later this year.

        Defense attorney Kenneth Lawson said the statement should be thrown out because detectives denied Mr. Ringer access to his attorney when they questioned him. Prosecutors say Mr. Ringer voluntarily spoke to police without his attorney present.

        Prosecutors have said Mr. Ringer arranged to meet Ms. Betts Dec. 20 so he could kill her.

        Ms. Betts, a marketing specialist for a Columbia Tusculum firm, was pregnant and police say Mr. Ringer, 39, acknowledged he could have been the father. But in his taped statement, Mr. Ringer said he knew nothing about the pregnancy.

        Sheriff's detectives testified that Ms. Betts' daughter told them her mother met Mr. Ringer that night because he called to ask for a ride.

        Assistant Prosecutor Dave Prem said detectives later found a shell casing in Mr. Ringer's car that matched the shell used to kill Ms. Betts. He said police also found the same kind of bullets at Mr. Ringer's house, although they did not find the gun.

        The pretrial hearing is expected to continue today. Judge Richard Niehaus will then decide whether the statement should be played at Mr. Ringer's trial.


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