KENTON — The 16-year-old son of a Harrod man charged with orchestrating a scheme to burn down the home of his estranged wife described for jurors the painstaking steps his father went through in attempting to have the son carry out his plans.
Garrett Sheldon testified Monday afternoon in the jury trial of his father, Gerrick “Tony” Sheldon, which got underway earlier that morning in Hardin County Common Pleas Court.
Gerrick Sheldon, 41, is charged in a 15-count indictment that alleges he secured the service of another person — his teen-aged son — to burn down the residence of his estranged wife on Aug. 13 of last year. The couple was in the midst of an acrimonious divorce at the time, according to trial testimony.
The younger Sheldon testified that he led his father to believe he would carry out the plan to torch the house of Danielle Sheldon, his stepmother, because he feared his father would do it himself if the teenager refused. But after being driven by his father to Danielle’s house on the night in question, Garrett Sheldon instead alerted his step-mother — whom he described as “the only mother I’ve known since I was 3 years old” — of his father’s plan. Danielle Sheldon contacted law enforcement authorities, who arrested her now ex-husband.
“Tony” Sheldon was indicted Aug. 23 on two counts of complicity to attempted aggravated murder, four counts of complicity to attempt aggravated arson, four counts of complicity to commit aggravated burglary, two counts of endangering children and one count each of complicity to unlawful possession of dangerous ordnance, complicity to possession of criminal tools and complicity to violation of a protection order.
A jury of nine men and three women was seated shortly before 10:30 a.m. Monday to hear the case. Prior to opening statements from attorneys, and outside of the jury’s presence, Judge Scott Barrett heard a number of last-minute motions from both the prosecuting attorney as well as defense lawyers as they pertained to late or incomplete disclosure of evidence to be presented in the trial.
Barrett was clearly frustrated by the motions, noting that “we have gone ‘round and ‘round over discovery in this case.”
In their opening statements, attorneys laid out thumbnail versions of their respective cases for jurors.
Hardin County Prosecuting Attorney Bradford Bailey said evidence in the case would show the defendant engaged the services of Garrett, in an attempt to burn Danielle Sheldon’s house to the ground. Bailey said the defendant assembled a “kit” that included gasoline, a hose and other items necessary to start the fire, then drove his son some 15 miles to the house where his estranged wife resided.
By that time, however, the teen had decided he wanted no part of the arson plot and warned his step-mother of what had been planned, the prosecutor told jurors.
“This was not a spur-of-the-moment thing; the defendant planned this out,” the prosecutor said. “And only a boy’s level head prevented a real tragedy here.”
Defense Attorney Rocky Ratliff was much more succinct in summarizing the strategy of the defendant’s legal team.
“The state’s whole case centers around Garrett Sheldon, who completely lied” to investigators, Ratliff told jurors.
Testimony will resume Tuesday morning with the defense team’s cross-examination of Garrett Sheldon.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.
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