Houston pleads guilty

LIMA — A Lima woman charged with murder for her role in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jaden Halpern pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery in Allen County Common Pleas Court Tuesday.

Bryanna Houston entered the guilty plea after prosecutors agreed to reduce her murder charge — an unclassified felony that carries the possibility of 15 years to life in prison — to a first-degree felony of involuntary manslaughter with a mandatory three-year firearms specification.

Houston pleaded guilty to a separate charge of aggravated robbery, also a first-degree felony, while prosecutors dismissed an aggravated burglary charge and two associated firearms specifications that would have enhanced her sentence.

“You know that you have broken a lot of hearts,” Halpern’s mother, Tina Johns, told Houston.

“…You’re going to come out, you might be a beautiful woman and you’ll be able to have babies and still have a life. Please don’t get in trouble in there,” Johns said, extending a hand-written note of her remarks to Houston.

Houston, 18, is one of six Lima-area teenagers initially charged with murder for their role in Halpern’s death on June 10, 2022, during an attempted robbery at Halpern’s home.

Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Thines described Houston, who was unarmed, as the “link” between Halpern and the other defendants who intended to rob Halpern. When attempts to lure Halpern outside his home failed, Thines said a male from the group pushed his was inside “and that’s when a shot rang out.”

Lima Police Det. Steve Stechschulte previously said that when David Halpern, Jaden’s father, saw what he believed to be an assault rifle he fired one shot. His son stepped in front of the bullet and was struck in the back.

“I’ve had a whole year to think about what to say and I don’t know,” said Jenna Halpern, Jaden’s sister. “… You came to our house a lot. That’s what hurts the most.”

Houston trembled as she apologized to the Halperns and her own family, who lined up for hugs with the 18-year-old before she was escorted from the courtroom. “I’m very sorry,” she said. “I caused so much heartbreak and trauma to all of you. None of this should have happened at all.”

Judge Terri Kohlrieser sentenced Houston to a minimum of 23 to 28 years in prison, following the recommendation of prosecutors and the defense.

Prosecutors offered the same agreement to Keion Darden, who pleaded guilty in April to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery for his role in Halpern’s death.

Both agreements stipulate that neither Darden nor Houston will apply for early judicial release, though Darden’s sentencing hearing is slated for Thursday afternoon.

Jaquan Glenn, who was 18 when Halpern died, and minors Kayrese Garner, Brianna Patrick and Roselyn Thomas-Lewis were also charged in the incident.