LIMA — An Allen County jury returned a split verdict Thursday in the trial of a Lima man charged with the shooting death of a Wapakoneta resident in 2016.
The jury deliberated for more than four hours before returning a not guilty verdict against Lima resident Chaz Jackson on a charge of murder for the shooting death of Ryan VanBuskirk on a Lima street on Nov. 21, 2016.
Jurors, however, did find Jackson guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, a count that included a three-year mandatory prison sentence for the use of a firearm during the commission of the crime.
That three-year sentence will be served prior to a sentence of up to 11 years that Jackson could receive on the involuntary manslaughter charge when he is sentenced on Dec. 16.
Jackson, 24, showed little emotion when the verdicts were read but smiled at family members before being escorted from the courtroom.
He was indicted in June 2017 by an Allen County grand jury on charges of murder, an unclassified felony; involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree; and aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony. Jackson eluded authorities for nearly two years before he was located in a police raid in Huntsville, Alabama, and brought back to Lima to stand trial.
Two individuals who claimed they were at the scene of the murder testified during the trial on Wednesday that Jackson fired the shot that killed VanBuskirk. Melissa Ream, an admitted crack cocaine addict at the time, and her one-time dealer, Rione Gray, each told jurors that Jackson shot and killed VanBuskirk as he stood alongside his car on Lima’s Catalpa Street on Nov. 16, 2016.
Gray testified that Jackson accompanied him to the corner of Catalpa Street and St. Johns Avenue for the drug transaction. He told jurors that Jackson fired the single shot to the chest that killed VanBuskirk. Ream said she saw the same incident from across the street.
Jackson’s attorney, Anthony Vannoy, portrayed Gray as the shooter and claimed his client was playing video games at home when the shooting occurred.
“Did you shoot Mr. VanBuskirk?” Vannoy asked his client.
“I did not,” Jackson replied.
During closing arguments Thursday morning, Vannoy told jurors that physical evidence collected at the crime scene did not match testimony in the trial.
“None of the evidence puts Chaz Jackson there, because he wasn’t there,” Vannoy said.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tony Miller painted a different picture for jurors.
“When you take the physical evidence, the forensic evidence and the testimony there is one conclusion you can reach — using common sense and reason — and that is that Chaz Jackson shot and killed Ryan VanBuskirk and then asked Rione Gray to take the rap.”