Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Judge drops teen from murder conspiracy




By Janice Morse jmorse@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A charge of conspiracy to commit murder was dropped against one teen but will proceed against at least two others in an alleged plot to kill the police chief of New Miami.

        Two other alleged participants in the still face hearings.

        Following a hearing Monday in Butler County Juvenile Court, Judge David Niehaus said he found enough evidence to support the charges against two boys, ages 15 and 16, who are accused of planning to kill New Miami Police Chief Duane Pelfrey. The judge will consider in hearings set for late next month whether they should be tried as adults.

        But Judge Niehaus threw out the conspiracy charge against a 15-year-old, and will consider May 10 whether charges will go forward against a fourth teen. A fifth suspect, Samuel Harrison, 19, remains in the county jail awaiting a Municipal Court hearing Friday.

        “This case has got a long way to go,” Judge Niehaus said during Monday's often-confusing hearing. “Conspiracy is not an easy thing to prove.”

        Officers, however, testified that one 16-year-old suspect drew a diagram showing where the would-be assassins planned to stand — and in what order they intended to fire. The boys' lawyers questioned whether the diagram was produced under undue influence from Chief Pelfrey, who participated in the questioning.

        One 15-year-old suspect was absent from the diagram, and Judge Niehaus found insufficient evidence to support a conspiracy charge against him. That boy now faces a burglary charge only. The youth admitted he stole a shotgun from a residence, police said. They believe the weapon was to be used in the other suspects' planned ambush of the chief at police headquarters.

        The burglary suspect's lawyer, Victoria Daiker, suggested the gun may have been “a decorative item” that was incapable of firing and she said there was no direct evidence linking it to any conspiracy.

        Brad Kraemer and James Sher ron, lawyers for two other defendants, argued the boys were merely “talking” about what they'd like to do to the chief, and there was no evidence of imminent action.

        But Assistant Prosecutor Greg Stephens argued the group had taken several steps toward making their plan reality.

        They had learned when the chief was most likely to be alone and vulnerable to attack, and Mr. Harrison and another suspect had stolen two guns, sawed off one shotgun's barrel, then hid both weapons, Mr. Stephens said, adding the plan was “basically, to assassinate a police chief.”

        Officials have not said what they think motivated the alleged plot.

       



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