This story has been edited to reflect the following correction: The drug deal that led to Cody Snyder’s death was not set up by him.
ELYRIA — One defendant sobbed, another begged for a chance to live his dream of playing college football while two others remained stoic Friday morning during a sentencing hearing in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
They were the four remaining defendants connected with the incident that led to the shooting death of 19-year-old Cody Snyder were sentenced.
Qwanda Woodson, 17, of Elyria, and Justin Smith, 18, of Oberlin, were both sentenced to eight years in prison. Jeffrey Miraldi, 21, of Elyria, was sentenced to five years in prison, and Jenna Turner, 20, of Middleburg Heights, was sentenced to six months in Lorain County Jail and three years of probation.
A fifth person, Kajaun Anderson, 19, of Elyria, whom police have said pulled the trigger on the shot that killed Snyder was sentenced to 24 years in prison in November after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
“The way the court views this case is simply six young people all making bad decisions,” visiting Judge Robert Brown said during the hearings. “If any one of the six people involved that day would have said, ‘No,’ maybe none of this would have happened.”
Instead, one person is dead and the lives of five others are forever changed.
On Friday, all four defendants and their attorneys asked Brown to allow them the opportunity to change their lives and not have Snyder’s death be in vain.
Attorney James Burge, the defense attorney for Woodson, made a passionate plea on his client’s behalf to Brown, comparing his own upbringing to that of his client.
“I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. It would have been impossible for me to make a mistake because I came from a perfect family,” Burge said. “Qwanda Woodson came from no family at all. His father was in jail for most of his life. His mother was a drug addict who died of an overdose. His sister, at age 21, took over his guardianship. That’s the guidance that he’s had.”
Despite those disadvantages, Woodson was a good student in high school and was a good athlete as well, especially in football, Burge said.
“He was being sought after by colleges and universities to play college ball,” Burge said. “He still has that dream. He’s trying to graduate from high school. He knows your honor is going to lock him up, and he’s hopeful that he can have an associate’s degree by the time he finishes and still play four years of college football, because that would be the eligibility he would have left.”
When sentencing Miraldi, Brown said the difference between Miraldi’s upbringing, being the son of Lorain County Judge John Miraldi, and that of Woodson, couldn’t have been starker.
Special Prosecutor Christian Stickan seemed to agree.
“This defendant, in particular, has a very privileged background, compared to all the other defendants,” Stickan said of Jeffrey Miraldi. “He had the opportunity to do something other than sell drugs. His background has given him more opportunities than any of the other defendants would have had to have another career or do something else. That was not the path he chose.”
Instead, Jeffrey Miraldi set up a drug deal with Smith and Woodson, prosecutors said. Jeffrey Miraldi had agreed to sell a half pound of marijuana to Smith and Woodson for about $1,400.
However, Smith and Woodson decided to rob Jeffrey Miraldi and take the marijuana without paying for it, testimony during the hearing said. Woodson enlisted the help of Anderson, who brought a gun to the transaction.
Jeffrey Miraldi, Snyder and Turner all traveled to the agreed upon location for the sale, Clinton Avenue in Elyria. Prosecutors said the stop was at least the fourth the trio made that evening during a series of drug transactions.
While Woodson and Smith were in the 2014 Ford Focus, which is registered to John Miraldi, with Jeffrey Miraldi, Snyder and Turner, conducting the transaction, Anderson approached the vehicle and attempted to take the marijuana. Prosecutors said Jeffrey Miraldi brought a gun to the transaction, as well.
When Anderson attempted the robbery, a confrontation ensued, and Anderson shot Snyder in the chest.
Rather than call 911, Jeffrey Miraldi drove Snyder to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where Snyder died of his injuries, police said.
Police told Turner to not leave the hospital, but instead she drove the Ford Focus, which was the scene of the murder, to her home in Middleburg Heights. Inside the car were the gun Jeffrey Miraldi had brought and the half pound of marijuana, which police say were never recovered because Turner got rid of the evidence, which was why she was charged with three counts of tampering with evidence.
After Smith was sentenced, his parents, Henry Smith and Laila Freeman-Smith, walked over to the Snyder family and spoke at length with them. After the conversation, the two sides shook hands and hugged.
“I just wanted to express my condolences to the family, the Snyders,” Henry Smith said. “It’s hard for them to find the strength and courage to move forward. I asked them to forgive and pray for our son for his involvement in this action.”
Henry Smith said that all the families involved in the case have remorse for the Snyder family “because we are able to touch our sons, hug our sons, love our sons and teach them and educate them to move forward.
“I can’t even put into words how much I feel for their family,” Freeman-Smith said. “Obviously, I don’t understand what they’re going through because we are still able to talk to our son and have contact with him. We’re not praying that he’s OK in another life.”
Smith and Woodson both have to serve three-year mandatory sentences for gun specifications attached to their counts of involuntary manslaughter. After that, they could receive judicial release after serving six months of their sentences.
Jeffrey Miraldi has to serve a one-year mandatory sentence for the gun specification attached to his count of involuntary manslaughter. He could receive judicial release after serving one year and six months in prison, defense attorney Michael Duff said.
A no-contact order had been issued for Jeffrey Miraldi and Turner when the investigation into the case was ongoing, but the order had been lifted after the two pleaded guilty. Turner told Brown the two were still in a relationship during the sentencing hearing.
When he sentenced Jeffrey Miraldi on Friday, he reinstated the no contact order and said it would remain in effect until Jeffrey Miraldi’s release from prison.
Brown also gave Turner one week to get her affairs in order before having to report to Lorain County Jail. However, when Turner began crying when the no contact order was reinstated, Brown didn’t take it well.
“As far as Miss Turner is concerned, I don’t even know why you are still here,” Brown said. “I gave you a week to prepare to report. I think you’d better be going.”
- Jeffrey Miraldi, Jenna Turner plead guilty in connection with killing of Cody Snyder
- Teens plead guilty in exchange for testimony in Elyria homicide (UPDATED)
- Teens waive charges in Cody Snyder fatal shooting; plea deal expected
- 2 juveniles face adult charges in Cody Snyder death
- Judge John Miraldi seeks transfer of cases from his docket to avoid potential conflicts
- Three plead not guilty in Cody Snyder homicide (VIDEO, UPDATED)
- Grand jury releases indictments in Cody Snyder homicide
- Judge reduces Turner's bond in connection with Cody Snyder shooting
- Jenna Turner's father faces pot charges in connection with death of Cody Snyder
- Visiting judge chosen for cases related to fatal shooting
- Special prosecutor to handle all cases relating to Cody Snyder death
- Jeffrey Miraldi waives hearing; bail set at $50,000 (UPDATED, VIDEO)
- Jeffrey Miraldi released on bail
- Charges pile up, but bail is reduced for Jeffrey Miraldi (VIDEO)
- May primary will feature crowded domestic relations judge's race
- Jeffrey Miraldi arraigned on tampering charge related to homicide (UPDATED)
- Car registered to Judge John Miraldi was scene of fatal shooting (UPDATED/VIDEO)
- Judge's son charged with tampering in connection with fatal shooting
- Cody Snyder's death was expected — but not this way (VIDEO)
- Prosecutor files motions to try teens as adults in killing of 19-year-old
- Cody Lee Snyder
- 2 teens deny charges in fatal Elyria shooting
- Three arrested in fatal Elyria shooting (UPDATED)
- Cody Lee Snyder