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Special grand jury session set in murder

10/05/2004

"James does a lot of wrong, but he's not capable of killing somebody." - James Trent, Jr.'s stepmother, Kimberly Lett

WAVERLY -- Three Pike County residents, accused of beating a homeless man and leaving him to die naked in a trash bin, faced a judge for the first time Monday afternoon.

James Trent, Jr., 19, and Martin Baxter, 28, both of Piketon, and Matthew Ferman, 22, of Waverly, were arraigned Monday afternoon, charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in the beating death of 39-year-old Daniel Fetty. All three are being held in the Ross County Jail on $1 million bonds.

Fetty was found around 1 a.m. Saturday when Waverly Police received a call about a fight in a parking lot behind a building at 100 N. Market St. Fetty was found in the bin, taken to Pike Community Hospital, then flown by helicopter to Grant Medical Center in Columbus, where he died at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

Prosecutor Rob Junk said his office isn't ruling out seeking the death penalty in this case, which will be presented to a special grand jury session Thursday. If the grand jury indicts, a preliminary hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12 won't be conducted.

"The death penalty is something we are considering," Junk said.

"At this point, we'd like to keep all our options open with it. You may see us do that, but right now we haven't made an official decision on (the death penalty)."

Trent was crying when he and the two other suspects were led into Judge Randy Deering's courtroom. Trent's tears intensified as Deering read the possible sentences, and Ferman also began to cry.

Baxter sat stone-faced, shaking his head throughout the hearing.

If convicted on the aggravated murder charge, each man faces a prison sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 20 years and a fine of up to $25,000. The aggravated robbery charge carries a sentence of three to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. According to the Ohio Revised Code, capital punishment comes into play if a person is convicted of aggravated murder in conjunction with a specified "aggravating circumstance," including aggravated robbery.

Waverly Police Chief Larry Roe said the city hasn't seen a crime like this in decades.

"There hasn't been any violent crime down here in over 40 years, not of that nature," he said.

After beating Fetty with boards and bricks, Roe said, Baxter, Ferman and Trent stripped him naked and put him in the trash bin, but not before stripping him naked.

"I think, just mostly to top off the humiliation," Roe said.

That notion has shaken up employees of the Emmitt House restaurant, across the street from the parking lot where the beating took place, said Gretchen Blake. Blake is a supervisor in the kitchen, and had worked with Fetty in the two months he worked in the Emmitt House's kitchen. She said several other employees attended the hearing.

"He didn't do anything wrong to anybody," she said. "He was just very pleasant to be around, but Emmitt House has felt his loss.

"It's very disturbing that it can happen in our community," she continued. "It makes us know that you're not safe anywhere. ... We all feel that we have to watch our backs now."

Roe said he believes the murder originated as a robbery and was possibly drug-related. His office continues to interview witnesses, and the investigation is ongoing, but he said he thinks they have the right men. Trent and Ferman, he said, have been arrested by his officers in the past, mostly as juveniles.

"We're talking to people," he said. "That's not to say that if we find out if someone is involved, they're not going to be arrested."

Junk said both the state and defense are at the beginning of a long legal road. He successfully tried a five-day murder case in December -- the jury convicted Carl Spradlin of shooting Joe Rennells to death, then dumping his body in a creek bed.

But Fetty's murder is one of the worst he's ever seen.

"This, to me, is one of the most serious that I've handled," he said.

Ferman proclaimed his innocence to nearby television cameras while walking out of the courtroom to be escorted back to jail.

Family members of another defendant rallied around their loved one. Terrisa Johnston, Trent's aunt, said he isn't capable of killing somebody.

"He's not the type that would do anything like that," she said.

But the ordeal has hit their family hard, she said. Trent's stepmother, Kimberly Lett, wept throughout the hearing and through interviews afterward.

"James does a lot of wrong, but he's not capable of killing somebody," she told reporters.

Johnston said Trent is a "friendly boy" who stuck up for his friends. He has two younger sisters, she said.

"It's just nerve-racking," Johnston said. "Every time somebody says something to us, we just start breaking down."

Source: Chillicothe Gazette



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