A Summit County jury has recommended the death penalty for an Akron man convicted in the fatal shootings of two people and a related shooting on Grant Street that left a man paralyzed.
The decision came Thursday morning after the sequestered panel deliberated for about seven hours over parts of two days.
Dawud El Spaulding, 30, of East Buchtel Avenue, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 15 by Common Pleas Judge Paul Gallagher.
Under Ohio law, the judge has the authority to lower the sentence to life in prison with no chance of parole or to approve the jury’s recommendation.
Spaulding previously was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder, one count of felonious assault and other crimes in the slayings of Ernest “Ernie” Thomas and Erica Singleton, the mother of Spaulding’s 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh called the crime “a brutal, calculated shooting spree that left two people dead and a third near death.” She said it “illustrates the seriousness of domestic violence.”
Walsh thanked the jury, her domestic violence prosecutors and “everyone who worked on this very difficult case” for ensuring that justice was done for the victims.
Patrick Griffin was the first victim. He was shot in the early hours of Dec. 15, 2011, and fell in a doorway leading to a side driveway of the home on Grant Street. The 2 a.m. shooting left him paralyzed.
Some six hours later, trial testimony showed, Spaulding returned to the home and fatally shot Singleton and Thomas moments after they left the steps of the home’s front porch.
Ernest Thomas Sr., the father of Ernie Thomas and the grandfather of Griffin, called the nature of the shootings a product of “jealousy” and lashed out at the senseless gunplay on city streets.
He attended Thursday’s court hearing with his ex-wife, Helen Thomas, and many other relatives and friends of the victims.
“We’re not saying our son was an angel,” Thomas said. “He didn’t deserve this, and my grandson, Patrick, didn’t deserve it either.
“But these kids who run around here with these guns,” he said, “don’t have any understanding of what life is about. Everything is a game to them, and life is not a game because it’s so short.
“These kids need to wake up.”
Singleton, who was with Ernie Thomas in the hours before the shootings, had a protection order against Spaulding and was trying to hide when she was killed, prosecutors said at the jury trial.
Helen Thomas said her son “got caught up in a situation that he knew nothing about. He didn’t know anything about the young lady that he was with, or what kind of relationship she had with the killer.”
Not only was her son in the wrong place at the wrong time, she said, but he also was “with the wrong person.”
Helen Thomas said she was “very pleased” with the jury’s findings after the panel began deliberations at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday.
“The punishment fit the crime, and I thank God for it,” she said.
Ernest Thomas Sr. said he plans to address the court at Spaulding’s sentencing.
Jason Wells, one of Spaulding’s lawyers, said he hopes Gallagher “goes in his own direction and goes against what the jury decided.”
He said Spaulding is looking forward to his appeal on evidentiary issues. Wells also said Spaulding played sports in high school, graduated and would serve other inmates well, telling of his life’s experiences, in prison counseling and educational programs.
The Grant Street slayings occurred during a period veteran Akron police investigators described as one of the most violent in the city’s history. Nine people were shot, six fatally, during a six-day span.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.