Attorneys for an 18-year-old Akron man charged with aggravated murder in the April 2 bludgeoning deaths of a prominent New Franklin couple told court officials Friday morning the defendant plans to enter a written plea of not guilty by reason of insanity “at some point” in the death penalty case.
Shawn Eric Ford Jr., who according to his attorneys is on suicide watch in the mental health pod of the Summit County Jail, appeared via video arraignment before Common Pleas Magistrate Kandi S. O’Connor.
Ford made no comments in his 15-minute televised appearance from the jail as a prosecutor read the details of every charge and death penalty specification in his 11-count indictment. He was dressed in green-striped jail clothes, which signify that an inmate is a suicide risk, and stared straight ahead at the monitor during his entire appearance.
Two days after the slayings of Jeffrey Schobert, 56, and his wife, Margaret “Peg” Schobert, 59, New Franklin police announced Ford’s arrest.
Investigative records filed with the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office showed that a sledgehammer was found in the master bedroom of the couple’s home, along with both bodies.
Jeff Schobert was a prominent area attorney, and his wife was well-known in the community as a volunteer for various Summit County groups.
Don Hicks, one of two court-mandated lawyers in the death penalty case, told O’Connor that Ford was declining to enter a plea at Friday’s arraignment, but would, at some point in the capital proceedings, enter a written plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
As a formality in such arraignment proceedings, O’Connor issued a not guilty plea on Ford’s behalf.
His case has been assigned to Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker. The first pretrial hearing was set for 8:45 a.m. May 7.
Afterward, outside of court, Ford’s co-counsel, Jonathan T. Sinn, said he was unable to shed any new light on the case.
“All police reports have been kept confidential until such time as our client was indicted. Our intention now is to review their investigation and plan accordingly,” Sinn said.
Hicks declined to comment on Ford’s status in the jail’s mental health unit, except that he is in custody there and that they have spoken.
New Franklin police have said Ford was the boyfriend of the slain couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Chelsea Schobert. He also has been charged with felonious assault in a March 23 incident in which Chelsea was beaten and stabbed at a residence on Andrus Street in Akron.
Authorities have said she is recovering from her injuries, which include a skull fracture, at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Meanwhile, one of Ford’s co-defendants, Joshua E. Greathouse, 26, also was arraigned Friday. He is charged with obstructing justice for allegedly lying to police about the attack on Chelsea Schobert.
Attorney Maria Torres-Chin argued in some detail for his release on a signature bond. She said Greathouse had no previous record, was not charged with committing any violent acts in this case and poses no threat to the community.
She also argued that Greathouse had no role in the bludgeoning deaths of the Schoberts.
“I can tell you that my client was not involved [in any way] in the largest charge,” Torres-Chin said to O’Connor.
Greathouse is indigent, Torres-Chin further noted, “and does not have the means to flee the community.”
O’Connor ordered Greathouse to remain in jail unless he can meet the terms of his $25,000, 10 percent bond. He is scheduled to appear in Parker’s court at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Zachary J. Keys, 20, another co-defendant, remains in jail on the same bond, with the same hearing date, as Greathouse. He also is charged with obstructing justice for allegedly lying to police about the March 23 attack on Chelsea Schobert.
Ed Meyer can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3784.