Trial ends in guilty verdict for Mason Township man

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2011

It took only 20 minutes for a jury to decide the fate of a Mason Township man who was charged with shooting a gun at people he said were family friends, including a 2-year-old he helped raise.

Dana Clay, 48, of 3725 County Road 64, Willow Wood, was found guilty of three counts of felonious assault, each with a gun specification, Friday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. The charges stem from an incident that occurred the evening of March 25.

Clay’s defense at trial was that the shooting was not intentional; his dog tripped him while he was holding a muzzleloader and it discharged accidentally. The gun fired into the windshield of the victim’s, a married couple from Columbus, vehicle, after an argument between Clay and his girlfriend, Nancy Ross. Also in the car was a 2-year-old boy, the son of Ross’ daughter, Michelle Jeter.

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All three were treated for non-life-threatening injuries from shattered glass and lead from the gun.

Clay fled before police arrived, and he wasn’t arrested until May 12 when he was found at his mother’s home in Lincoln County, W.Va.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Assistant Prosecutor Bob Anderson told the jury in closing arguments. “If it was an accident, you wouldn’t go up into the woods and eat crawdads.”

Clay testified Thursday that he spent several days after the shooting in the woods, sleeping without shelter, eating crawdads and drinking creek water.

Defense attorney Mike Gleichauf countered that Clay did not act knowingly, but Anderson told the jury that the evidence presented proved Clay acted intentionally “well beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“I’m pleased with the result and feel like it’s the one that should have been rendered,” Anderson said.

“Mr. Clay is disappointed in the jury’s decision,” Gleichauf said after the trial.

Judge Charles Cooper scheduled Clay’s sentencing for Oct. 12.

Clay faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison for each count of felonious assault. Each gun specification charge also carries with it a three-year prison sentence, which must run consecutively.