(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated)
ELYRIA — One of three men charged in the shooting death of a 20-year-old Elyria man in an October drug-related robbery at the Southwyck Apartments on West River Road pleaded guilty to lesser charges Wednesday.
Lance Cheers, 29, of Lorain, pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated robbery, all first-degree felonies, and one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in Zachary Mason’s death.
Judge James Miraldi accepted the plea. Cheers remains in Lorain County Jail on $1 million cash bond, and no sentencing date has been set.
All the charges carry firearms specification because Cheers was in possession of a handgun while committing the crimes. All five specifications will merge, meaning Cheers must serve a mandatory, three-year prison sentence prior to any additional prison term he receives for manslaughter and aggravated robbery.
The two involuntary manslaughter counts will merge with each other for the purposes of sentencing, as will both the aggravated robbery charges, with those terms to follow the three-year firearms specification, according to court documents.
All first-degree felonies carry a potential prison sentence of three to 11 years. The punishment for tampering with evidence is one to three years in prison.
According to Elyria police and court records, 24-year-old Larry “Nuke” Hamilton Jr., his brother 18-year-old Keeon “Cash” Green and Cheers drove to the Southwyck Apartments at 1444 West River Road N. on Oct. 1 to buy marijuana from Mason.
Hamilton picked up Cheers in the 2000 block of Hancock Street in Lorain, and Cheers drove Hamilton to get Green in Elyria. Green was trying to get Mason to sell the men some marijuana, but said he couldn’t find Mason, according to court records.
Cheers and Hamilton waited in Elyria while Green took his mother to the hospital. When he returned, the three went back to the Southwyck Apartments to meet Mason and complete the deal.
It was during this ride that Hamilton said he was going to rob Mason with a small handgun he brought with him, according to Elyria police and court records.
Search warrants filed by Elyria police revealed that Green had contacted Mason via Facebook Messenger to set up the drug deal, then told him to come to the door of the apartment where Green lived.
Cheers and Hamilton hid in a laundry room to ambush Mason. When he came along, Hamilton ordered Mason to give him “everything,” but Mason hit Hamilton in the face. Hamilton then shot Mason multiple times as he ran away.
Mason collapsed between two cars outside, where he was found. Elyria police officers performed CPR, but Mason later died at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.
Hamilton later threw the gun in a dumpster and the men cleaned themselves with bleach, according to police and court records.
Police recovered marijuana, shell casings and other evidence from the area, according to the search warrants. A friend of Mason’s who accompanied him to the deal said Mason had more than $2,000 on him when he entered the apartment building, money police could not locate following Mason’s death.
Cheers and Green were arrested by Elyria police the day after Mason’s death. Hamilton turned himself in to police Oct. 12, two days after Elyria police and the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force named him as a suspect in Mason’s death.
Green is next due in court on murder, robbery, evidence tampering and possession of criminal tools charges related to Mason’s murder on Friday, according to Miraldi’s office.
Hamilton’s next court appearance on charges of murder, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and possession of criminal tools is set in Judge Mark Betleski’s courtroom Monday.
Both Green and Hamilton remain in Lorain County Jail.
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