Thursday, February 28, 2002

Murder defendant faces decision on plea bargain

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Former downtown barber Tony Ringer will decide today whether he'll plead guilty and head to prison for 21 years or risk a life sentence by proceeding with a jury trial.

        The 31-year-old Westwood man is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Cassandra Betts, and her unborn child on Dec. 20, 2000.

        Jury selection in Mr. Ringer's aggravated murder trial was supposed to start Wednesday, but much of the day passed as opposing attorneys tried to agree on a possible plea.

        Ms. Betts' family, particularly her mother, Barbaranne Irving, has been adamant about proceeding with a jury trial. But late Wednesday, prosecutors went forward with the offer of 21 years in a plea bargain.

        Mr. Ringer was told of the offer and spent much of the afternoon Wednesday talking with his family and his defense attorney.

        Opposing sides will return to Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Richard Niehaus' courtroom at 9:30 a.m. today to inform the judge of a decision.

        Mr. Ringer is charged with two counts of aggravated murder. He is accused of shooting Ms. Betts, 25, in the head. The shot also killed her 6-week-old fetus. DNA tests determined Mr. Ringer was the father.


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