LIMA — The second of two Lima men to take part in a drive-by shooting in the aftermath of a murder trial earlier this year fared better than his co-defendant did when it came time for sentencing.
Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed sentenced Darius Relford, 22, to the minimum prison term Thursday on a second-degree felony count of felonious assault. The amended charges stemmed from a March 18 incident, when Relford was a participant in a revenge-motivated shooting directed at at a Lima residence.
Reed — saying he believed Relford to be a young man with a positive future who simply fell in with the wrong crowd — sentenced Relford to five years in prison; two years on the felonious assault charge coupled with a mandatory three-year term for the use of a firearm in the commission of the crime. The three-year sentence will be served first, and Relford will be eligible to seek early release after serving six months of the remaining sentence.
Based on what the judge said was an overwhelming number of supportive letters he received from the defendant’s family, Reed addressed Relford directly when he said, “I was impressed with what kind of person you were and perhaps still are. But it begs the question: ‘What was a nice kid like you doing in a place like this?’ How did you end up getting involved in something like this?”
Relford answered the judge by simply saying, “It was the people I was hanging around with.” The young man’s attorney said alcohol and marijuana use led to a lapse in judgment by his client.
According to police reports, Relford was the driver of a vehicle from which several gunshots were fired at a residence at 1140 S. Union St. at approximately 3:15 a.m. on March 18. Two of the bullets fired entered the interior of the home, police said.
Law enforcement officers on patrol in the area heard the shots and observed a vehicle speeding away from the Union Street residence, according to the report. A traffic stop was initiated on the vehicle, the occupants of which included Relford along with Lima residents Trey Ackles and Blake Patterson.
Ackles was a key witness in the murder trial earlier this year of Lima resident Cory Jackson, who was convicted in the shooting death of Amari Gooding outside a downtown Lima bar on Oct. 8, 2016.
Ackles testified at trial that Jackson robbed him at gunpoint in the parking lot of the bar on the night in question. When Gooding came to his aid, Ackles testified, Jackson pointed a gun at Gooding’s chest and pulled the trigger.
Police said less than a month after Jackson’s conviction, Ackles and Relford carried out the drive-by shooting at the residence of another witness in the trial who had testified on Jackson’s behalf.
The 20-year-old Jackson was sentenced in April to 30 years to life in prison for Gooding’s murder.
Ackles was sentenced earlier this month to seven years in prison for his role in the drive-by shooting.
Imparting final words to Relford before the young man was led away to begin his prison term, Reed said, “Don’t let prison make you into a criminal. You can get through this and be a better person when you come out. You have the potential, and you have the support.”