LIMA — A Missouri man charged with murder in the 2016 death of a Wapakoneta man pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced charges that will see him spend a maximum of six years in prison.
Rione A. Gray, 22, of Florissant, Missouri, accepted a plea agreement crafted by Allen County prosecutors that called for him to plead guilty to a third-degree felony charge of involuntary manslaughter, with a firearm specification. In exchange for that guilty plea, the state agreed to drop charges of murder, an unclassified felony, and aggravated robbery, a felony of the first degree.
Gray was indicted by an Allen County grand jury on June 15 on charges of murder with firearm specifications, an unclassified felony; involuntary manslaughter with gun specifications, a first-degree felony; and aggravated robbery with firearm specifications, also a felony of the first degree.
The charges stemmed from a shooting on Nov. 21, 2016, in the 700 block of Catalpa Avenue that claimed the life of Ryan VanBuskirk, 35, of Wapakoneta. A jury trial had been scheduled for Oct. 30 to hear the case.
Gray was captured earlier this year in St. Louis, Missouri. Lima Police detectives drove to St. Louis in April to retrieve him. Another suspect in the case, Chaz Jackson, has thus far eluded authorities.
Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge David Cheney, in reviewing some aspects of the case during Wednesday’s hearing, said the involuntary manslaughter charge as originally filed against Gray was the result of the defendant “causing the death of another, without intending that result, during the commission of a felony,” in this case the trafficking of drugs.
The amended involuntary manslaughter charge removes the language pertaining to the commission of the felony. The new charge carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, a fine of up to $10,000 and a mandatory three years of post-release control by the parole authority.
Before accepting the defendant’s plea, Cheney told Gray that the firearm specification that was included as part of the involuntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum three-year prison sentence which must be served prior to any additional, consecutive sentence imposed by the court.
Lima Attorney William Kluge, representing Gray, said his client “is satisfied” with the deal offered by the state “and thanks the prosecutor for allowing this to happen.” Kluge told the court that Gray “has been cooperative throughout the process.”
Sentencing was set for 2 p.m. Nov. 22.