A Glouster man was sentenced last week to 19 years in prison on a first-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting death of an Athens man at a West Washington Street apartment last November.

Michael Allen Russell, 19, is the third person so far to be convicted of felony manslaughter and other charges relating to the killing of Athens man Charles Duncan Sr., 55. So far, co-conspirators Bernard Mitchell, 23, of Athens and Jonathan Champe McLaughlin, 23, of Glouster, have also been convicted for the death of Duncan (both in December 2018).

Russell during a hearing last Wednesday was convicted by Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Lang of a second-degree felony count of robbery, a third-degree felony count of having weapons while under disability, and a fourth-degree felony count of receiving stolen property (as well as the involuntary manslaughter charge mentioned above, which had a "firearm specification").

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said Monday that under Ohio’s sentencing laws, three years of Russell's 19-year sentence are mandatory, however also according to those laws, the earliest Russell could possibly be eligible for judicial release is in 12 ½ years. Blackburn said his office has agreed not to oppose Russell’s release after 13 ½ years as a part of a plea agreement.

Duncan was shot through the door of his girlfriend’s apartment at 221 W. Washington St. in Athens on Nov. 25 last year. Russell, Mitchell and McLaughlin were present at the apartment at the time of the shooting; two different men, Troy Allen Vermillion, 28 and Robert Martin, 26, were allegedly part of the drug ring that the entire group was involved with, and were involved with planning the attempted burglary that led to Duncan being shot and killed. Still, Russell was the one who pulled the trigger in this case, Blackburn confirmed.

“They’re accused of being involved with an earlier drug transaction that led to the attempted burglary…” Blackburn said Monday of Vermillion and Martin. “That earlier transaction was allegedly a drug deal in which the victim did not pay for the drugs, which caused these three (Russell, Mitchell and McLaughlin) to come back.”

Mitchell pleaded guilty last December to a first-degree felony count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; a first-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter; a third-degree felony count of possessing weapons while under disability; a first-degree felony count of aggravated robbery; second-degree felony robbery; fifth-degree felony breaking and entering; fourth-degree felony grand theft; and second-degree felony burglary. He was sentenced by Lang to 24 years in prison, with the prosecutor’s office agreeing not to oppose his release after 12 years because he agreed to cooperate in the case against his co-conspirators.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin was also convicted on a similar number of felony charges (minus the involuntary manslaughter charge) also in early December 2018 in Athens County Common Pleas Court. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, with the prosecutor’s office agreeing not to oppose his release after nine years also because he agreed to cooperate with investigators.

All five men are accused of “engaging in the trafficking of methamphetamine,” Blackburn said in the release.

“Each are accused of accepting stolen property as payment for the drugs. It is believed that some of the individuals broke into homes and buildings themselves and took items including a Kubota lawn mower, firearms, jewelry among other items,” Blackburn said in the release. “All individuals involved are drug dependent and/or in danger of being drug dependent and regularly possess, steal, transfer, or have control over firearms. It is further alleged that on November 25, 2018, these individuals are responsible for the death of Charles Duncan Sr., resulting from the shooting of a firearm through the front door of the residence that Duncan was in.”

Russell will be subject to five years of mandatory post-release control once released from prison.

Martin and Vermillion’s cases are still pending in Athens County Common Pleas Court. 

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