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Holton gets 15 years for killing

Murder suspect Jeffery T.

Friday, January 04, 2002

Murder suspect Jeffery T. Holton was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison on a reduced involuntary manslaughter charge.

Holton entered an Alford guilty plea to the charge, which means he does not contest the facts of the case, said Mack Anderson, assistant prosecutor in county prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr.’s office.

"We think justice was done," said Anderson, who added Holton received the maximum prison penalty.

Holton, 22, of Hog Run Road, will serve 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the Aug. 24, 2001, shooting death of his girlfriend Misty Malone, 20. He had faced a Jan. 23 murder trial until Thursday’s plea.

Holton will serve an additional three years in prison because he used a gun to commit the crime, what’s commonly called a gun specification. He also received two years in prison for tampering with evidence, because he threw the gun away after the shooting. He received 12 months in prison for trafficking in marijuana and 11 months in prison for having a weapon while under disability – both prison terms to be served at the same time as the others.

Holton’s prison term will total 15 years, without parole.

Anderson said the offer of the involuntary manslaughter charge was discussed with the victim’s family prior to court.

They were OK with the charge; and as murder carries a sentence of 15 years to life, there wasn’t a vast amount of difference between the two, Anderson added.

"In our investigation, we felt this was an appropriate penalty, and one a jury could have found," he said.

A jury would have considered manslaughter, too, if there had been a murder trial, he said.

In Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, the victim’s mother, Trenda Vaughn, spoke before sentencing, telling Judge Richard Walton that Holton took something from the family that can never be replaced, Anderson said.

Holton did not speak. Judge Walton cited Holton’s prior drug conviction and drug trafficking charge as reasons for imposing the maximum prison sentence.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Holton after the early-morning August shooting. Witnesses had heard the gunshot and called police. Deputies later recovered a .357-caliber handgun from a wooded area near the couple’s Hog Run Road home. Detectives believed the shooting was domestic violence related.

Holton told several stories about the incident, Anderson said, ranging from the gun accidentally fired when dropped and that the couple struggled over the gun when it went off.

Even if you believe what he said, you don’t have to prove intent under an involuntary manslaughter charge; and he goes to prison for a full 15 years under Ohio’s "truth in sentencing" law, Anderson said.