By: Craig Cheatham
CINCINNATI (WCPO) — A 16-year-old charged in 2021 with four murders will be prosecuted as an adult, a juvenile court judge ruled on Monday.
Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Kari Bloom issued her order after hearing arguments for and against moving the case to adult court.
“The defendant is in his own category,” Hamilton County Asst. Prosecutor Linda Scott told Bloom. “We’re talking about a person who executed people.”
In court, Scott said the teen — who WCPO is not identifying because he’s a juvenile — committed violent crimes as an “audition” for getting paid to kill people.
On Feb. 1, 2021, he lured a man to a location, shot and wounded him and then shot and killed the man’s friend, Terrance North, Scott told the judge.
“This was his baby,” Scott said. “His robbery setup. His idea. This was a case where he was the lone shooter.”
Scott said after that shooting, the boy participated with adult co-defendants in two alleged contract killings later that month.
According to prosecutors, Carl Godfrey was hired in January 2021 to kill Jeremiah Campbell. Godfrey and Jason Gray shot Campbell to death on Jan. 31, 2021, according to an indictment.
A day later, the boy shot and killed North and wounded another man, according to juvenile court records.
On Feb. 16, 2021, Godfrey sent Gray, Mario Gordon and the boy to complete a second killing for which he had been contracted, according to the indictment. The trio, driven by 49-year-old Connor Inabnitt, spotted the target inside a vehicle with passengers and opened fire, according to prosecutors.
Investigators said the target survived. Deontay Otis, one of the vehicle’s other occupants, died on the scene, court records show.
The final shooting occurred two days later, according to prosecutors, when Godfrey and the boy “armed themselves and entered Millvale” in retaliation for another incident. Prosecutors said they shot and killed Donnell Steele.
“The court must send a clear message to our county,” Scott told the judge. “You can’t commit these crimes and hide behind your age.”
The boy’s defense attorney, Hal Arenstein, tried to convince Bloom that he could be rehabilitated in the juvenile system and still be punished.
“While I recognize that they can only keep him until his 21st birthday — and I don’t mean to insult the families — I know that that’s seven and a half years,” Arenstein said. “That is a substantial period of time.”
After hearing both sides, Bloom transferred the boy’s case to adult court.
“It is certainly a tragedy,” Bloom said. “This is not a pattern that we should expect or tolerate.”
Bloom set his bond at $2.7 million cash. That’s $100,000 cash for each of the active 27 counts he’s facing, she said.
Prosecutors will present evidence in his case to a grand jury.
This story was originally published Feb. 6, 2023, by WCPO in Cincinatti, an E.W. Scripps Company.