The family of a slain Akron father and son said they considered the feelings of the killer’s mother before agreeing to spare the man from a trial and potentially a death sentence.
Instead, Robert Pitts Jr., 20, will spend the rest of his life in prison. He pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of aggravated murder in last summer’s stabbing deaths of Bryan May and his son, Jeremy Putra.
Pitts was to go on trial in August and prosecutors intended to pursue a death sentence.
But during a hearing in Summit County Common Pleas Court, prosecutors dismissed the death specifications in exchange for Pitts’ plea and the lifelong sentence that precludes any chance for parole.
Kevin Kassel, May’s brother-in-law, said several factors were considered by the family before they agreed months ago to approach prosecutors with a plea proposal.
One of the considerations, Kassel said, was the potential pain Pitts’ mother and family would go through, had a death sentence been handed down and carried out.
“We went around our whole family,” Kassel said. “There were a couple people who wanted the death penalty still, but in general, we wanted what was best.
“In retrospect, the kid still has a mom, not that we really care about him. And for the mother to go through the agony of what we did, there’s no real justice in that.
“As Nancy Putra [Jeremy’s mother] said, it doesn’t make us any better if we go and take his life.”
Friend of victim
Pitts, a friend of Jeremy Putra since middle school, was down on his luck and in need of a place to live. He had been with May and his son for several weeks leading up to the July 16 slaying.
But when May, 53, announced he was planning to move in with a woman, and Jeremy said he was planning to attend college in Arizona, Pitts faced being homeless and lashed out at the two.
Pitts attacked the men inside their South Rose Boulevard home in West Akron. He then fled to Chicago, where he eventually called police to surrender.
Family members and friends have said Pitts was a “troubled kid” and Putra, 20, became increasing uncomfortable with his personality after he moved in. He told his minister at one point that Pitts gave him “the creeps” and he wished that his friend would move out.
While police confirmed that Pitts has no criminal history leading up to the slaying, Putra once told a friend that Pitts often spoke of murder and wanting to kill people.
Putra, whose mother lives in Arizona, had lived with his father for about the past 15 years. He and Pitts were close friends at Firestone High School.
May was a lifelong Akron resident, a Firestone grad and worked as a chef.
Kassel complimented the work of Assistant Prosecutors Brian Stano and Jennie Shuki and the efforts of Akron police detective Lt. Jim Phister, who put together an “air tight” case.
Pitts initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorneys later withdrew the defense. Trial was scheduled for Aug. 20.
With Pitts’ plea deal, four defendants under indictment this year for capital murder in Summit County have all received a sentence other than death. Jurors in three previous trials opted instead for life sentences. Five death penalty cases are pending.
“The bottom line is: [Pitts] changed so many people’s lives,” Kassel said. “I could see the change in people, six, seven months down the road. It aged my mother-in-law tremendously. He took years off of her life. It was life-altering, on both sides of the fence.”