LIMA — An Allen County judge on Monday ruled that at least one potential witness, and possibly two, in the case of a Lima man charged with aggravated burglary were intimidated by the defendant to the point where they made themselves invisible.
Before jurors in the trial of Anthony Houston ever heard the first piece of evidence, prosecutors successfully argued that Houston threatened a key prosecution witness from the Allen County jail through one or more colleagues on the outside.
With that information likely to be presented at trial, Houston chose to forego the jury trial altogether. He pleaded no contest to the indictment that included specifications for the use of a firearm and as a repeat violent offender.
Houston,. 40, was previously convicted of felonious assault, kidnapping and aggravated arson. He will be sentenced Sept. 9.
After listening to three calls made by Houston from jail, Judge Terri Kohlrieser said it “is quite clear to me” that Houston threatened Jordan Crowder into avoiding law enforcement authorities who were attempting to serve a subpoena for Crowder’s testimony at trial.
“He’s squealing like a pig and I know where he lives at,” Houston is heard saying on a jail call. “I need this (expletive) handled.”
Crowder and Charles Oberlin were to key witnesses in the state’s case. Oberlin also was not able to be located prior to the trial.
According to court documents, Lima Police Department Sgt. Bryce Garman was traveling in the 800 block of North Elizabeth Street around 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 of last year when he heard a call for help. Garman saw a man, later identified as Charles Oberlin, running in the street behind him. Oberlin said a Black male had just entered his residence with a gun. Crowder was seen in the street coming from the direction of Oberlin’s residence, court records show.
Crowder reportedly told police he had arrived at Oberlin’s residence and was approached by a Black male who pointed a gun at him. Crowder said he ran inside the residence but the man followed him with a gun, striking him in the head with the weapon.
He said the male came from a residence in the 800 block of North Elizabeth Street. Police went to that location and ordered all residents there to exit the home. A female, Fatimah Gurley, came outside and said no one else was inside. A short time later Houston, her boyfriend, exited the residence and Oberlin identified him as the man who had pulled a gun and threatened him.
Gurley was one of the voices heard on jail calls played in court on Monday. She has been charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to obtain notarized statements from Oberlin and Crowder in which they recanted their initial statements to police.