Inmate pleads not guilty of murder

Drug suspect takes plea deal

By Jim Painter - For the Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY — Peter Stokes, of Sidney, accused of causing injuries during a fight that led to the death of a fellow inmate at the Shelby County Jail, pleaded not guilty when arraigned, Thursday, Feb. 14.

The 26-year-old Sidney man is charged with murder, an unclassified felony.

Shelby County Common Pleas Court Judge James Stevenson set Stokes’s bond at $100,000 and remanded him to the custody of the county sheriff.

Stokes was one of two men involved in the fight in the jail, Jan. 18. The other combatant, James Richards, 54, of Sidney, died at Miami Valley Hospital at 3:50 p.m. the following day. The cause of death was a brain bleed believed to be caused by the assault, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

At the time, Shelby Country Sheriff’s Chief Deputy James R. Frye told the Sidney Daily News that Richards was beaten by Stokes when a verbal argument escalated to a fight. Stokes hit Richards, and Richards fell to the ground, hitting his head. He got into a sitting position on the floor, and Stokes “punched him three or four times,” Frye said.

Six corrections officers converged on the fight and got the men separated and within seconds, four sheriff’s deputies were there, too. The whole incident took just 32 seconds, according to the sheriff’s office video. Richards was transported first to Wilson Health and then to Miami Valley Hospital.

Shelby County Public Defender Jonathan Richard was assigned to represent Stokes, but according to online court records, Richard has requested that the court appoint a different attorney because his office is also representing the victim’s family.

Drug dealer takes plea deal

In a separate case, the third defendant in a local major drug arrest has been placed on five years of probation through a plea-negotiated resolution. Other sanctions were imposed Thursday, including the forfeiture of his portion of nearly a quarter of a million dollars in cash seized by authorities.

Leon Francis Sr., 62, of Sidney, was ordered to serve five years on community control on one count of possession of drugs, a fourth-degree felony, by Shelby County Common Pleas Court Judge James Stevenson. The judge stated if Francis violates his probation, an 18-month prison sentence could be imposed.

Francis was also directed to successfully complete the Thinking for a Change program and ordered to pay the court costs.

Stevenson ordered the cash seized as contraband at the time of his arrest be forfeited. Authorities discovered $246,322 belonging to Francis, and co-defendants, his son, Leon Francis Jr., and Sarah Jones, both of Cave Junction, Oregon.

On Feb. 8, Francis Jr., 33, was sentenced to two years in prison with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Jones, 32, his live-in girlfriend, was placed on five years of probation.

Francis Jr. forfeited a Ford F-250 truck while Jones was mandated to forfeit a 2018 Outback Ultra Lite camper. All three defendants were ordered to forfeit the $246,322.

According to authorities, on Jan. 5, a search warrant was executed by Sidney and Piqua Police Departments and the Ohio State Highway Patrol at the home of Francis Sr. Officers recovered marijuana, hash, THC products and the cash that were concealed in a camper parked behind the residence. Investigators indicated the camper and truck were used as part of a large drug trafficking trade spanning multiple states.

Drug suspect takes plea deal

By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.