LIMA — A Lima man acquitted by an Allen County jury earlier this year for the murder of Branson Tucker was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in prison on related charges.
Kenneth Cobb, 61, was found guilty of felonious assault on Jan. 31 by the same jurors who found him not guilty of murder. Jurors found Cobb acted in self-defense and was not culpable in Tucker’s death.
Cobb was sentenced Thursday to eight years behind bars on the felonious assault charge, three years for the attached gun specification and three more years for having a weapon under disability. Judge Terri Kohlrieser, who called her ruling “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make when it comes to sentencing,” ordered the prison time be served consecutively.
Cobb was charged with murder in connection with the Jan. 15, 2019, shooting death of Branson Tucker at 975 St. Johns Ave., an after-hours gambling spot that was also Cobb’s residence. Cobb’s attorney argued that Cobb acted in self-defense when he shot Tucker in the leg during a gambling session at the establishment. Following the shooting, Tucker died of blood loss.
“I shot the mother-(expletive), I’m not gonna lie,” Cobb told Lima Police Department Sgt. Jason Garlock in a telephone conversation that was played for jurors during the trial. “They tried to rob me … because I was winning at a dice game,” Cobb said.
Jurors on Jan. 31 of this year acquitted Cobb on the murder charge.
Security was beefed up in the courtroom for Thursday’s sentencing on the remaining two counts. Members of the families of both the victim and defendant exchanged heated words after the verdicts in Cobb’s trial were announced and Kohlrieser warned those in attendance about similar outbursts.
“Regardless of whatever sentence I hand down, some of you in the room are not going to like it,” the judge told members of both families. “I require you all to execute some restraint. I will not hesitate to have you taken into custody and held in contempt of court” if outbursts occur.
Branson Tucker’s mother addressed the court and asked for the healing to begin for both families. She urged family members to abstain from airing their grievances on Facebook.
“I ask both sides, don’t take this to social media. Let my baby rest in peace,” Carmella Tucker said.
Mrs. Tucker, wearing a T-shirt with her late son’s picture on the front, choked back tears as she addressed Cobb directly.
“You just tore us up as a family. Why, Kenny? Why? Is it ever going to stop? You took my baby and all I have left of him is memories. This is all we had left, Kenny, and you took him from us,” the woman said.
Two of Cobb’s family members spoke on his behalf, calling him a kind and gentle soul. Cobb’s son, Kenyon, said his father “wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he felt he had to do what any other person would do in his situation.”
Another family member, Thomas Cobb, apologized to the Tucker family.
“We’re sorry. Everybody’s hurting today,” he said. “But Kenny wasn’t trying to hurt nobody. He was just gambling and having fun.”
Cobb also apologized to the victim’s family but at the urging of his attorney had little else to say.
Kohlrieser acknowledged that it likely was not Cobb’s intent to kill Branson Tucker. “But you can’t bring a gun to a pushing match. Like it or not, that’s the law,” she said.
It is unclear how the jury’s verdict in the Cobb case will affect a murder charge against Jerome Fuqua in Tucker’s death. The 61-year-old Fuqua was at the same establishment later that night, and testimony points to Fuqua as the one who provided the gun to Cobb.