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Sherrick pleads to manslaughter

Christopher Sherrick, 502 S.

Thursday, August 26, 1999

Christopher Sherrick, 502 S. Eighth St., Ironton, pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter with a gun specification in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Wednesday.

The 23-year-old Ironton truck driver was charged in connection with the death of Melvin Gause, of Detroit, Mich. Police discovered Gause’s body June 15 on Township Road 179, or Tunnel Hill Road, in Upper Township just outside of city limits.

His trial was scheduled for Sept. 15, according to court records.

Sherrick was originally charged with murder with a gun specification, but the charge was reduced in exchange for Sherrick’s guilty plea, said Mark McCown, defense attorney.

There were factors in the case that led both defense and prosecuting attorneys to believe the case would not fare well before a jury, McCown added.

"Mr. Gause had somewhat of a criminal background – trafficking in drugs, carrying a concealed weapon," he said. "The preliminary investigation showed that he might have been involved in an Ironton drug ring based in Detroit. And Sherrick’s statement indicated the incident might have been a self-defense response."

Sherrick was sentenced to six years for the voluntary manslaughter charge and three years for the gun specification.

The sentence for the gun specification will be served first, and the manslaughter sentence will follow, McCown said.

"Our position is that Gause initiated the incident," McCown said. "He came at Chris and threatened him before. Chris admitted all along that he shot him and there’s nothing to contest that those shots were not what killed him. The difficulty in this type of case is trying to figure out what a jury will do. A jury, I think, would have looked at Gause’s criminal record. I don’t think they would have convicted Chris of murder."

The prosecuting attorney’s office had similar thoughts about the Sherrick case and that is why they accepted the plea, said J.B. Collier Jr., county prosecutor.

"There were mitigating factors," Collier said. "An investigation determined that (Gause) was involved in drugs. And the community takes a hard stance against that activity. Because of that and some other matters, we felt it was appropriate to consider the reduction."

Gause’s family, although not happy with the decision, did not oppose the prosecutor’s recommendation to reduce the murder charge to a voluntary manslaughter charge, he added.

"This is not a slap on the hand," Collier said. "He will pay a price for what he did."

Sherrick has resided in the Lawrence County Jail on a $1 million bond since he was picked up in Findlay June 15, three days after the murder occurred, by local law enforcement officials.

Autopsy reports are still inconclusive, McCown said. The body had deteriorated too much to precisely determine the number of bullets fired at Gause.

It is known that Gause died from multiple gunshot wounds, however, McCown said.

The homicide investigation, discovery of Gause’s body and the arrest of Sherrick was a result of a cooperative effort between Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department deputies, Ironton Police Department officers and Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office investigators.