RAVENNA: A Shaker Heights man was convicted of murder and felonious assault Thursday morning in his retrial in connection with the 2009 fatal beating of 23-year-old Kent State University student Christopher Kernich.
Adrian A. Barker, 25, was sentenced immediately afterward to 15 years to life in prison by Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow.
Prosecutors said Barker will be eligible for his first appearance before the Ohio Parole Board in 2024. He has served nearly four years on his previous convictions for the slaying.
Barker won a new trial early last year when an appeals court overturned his 2010 jury convictions and sentence. Enlow had failed to give jury instructions on lesser included charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide, the appellate judges said.
Enlow did include those charges in his jury instructions at the retrial, along with the lesser included charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless homicide and simple assault.
“They had all those choices,” Portage County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Buchanan said after the jury’s verdicts, “and they never got beyond murder, murder and felonious assault.”
Under Ohio law, Barker was found guilty of two counts of murder because of the circumstances surrounding Kernich’s death.
Jurors were given the case early Tuesday afternoon and spent about 12 hours in deliberations before returning their verdicts shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday.
Trial testimony showed that Barker and two of his University of Akron friends, Glenn Jefferson Jr. and Ronald Kelly, were engaged in a street fight with Kernich and three of his college friends about 2:20 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2009.
The men exchanged angry words after Jefferson pulled out of an East Main Street parking lot in his car, nearly striking Kernich’s group.
Moments later, according to numerous prosecution witnesses, Barker sucker-punched Kernich with a blow to the back of the head, knocking him to the pavement.
Witnesses said Barker and Kelly then stood over Kernich, repeatedly kicking him and stomping on his head. Kernich never regained consciousness and died six days later of massive brain injuries at Summa Akron City Hospital.
Buchanan said there was overwhelming evidence of Barker’s guilt.
“Seventeen people saw all or part of this assault,” he said.
Testimony in both of Barker’s trials showed there were more than 40 young men and women in the vicinity of the fight. Many admitted to police that they had been partying and drinking on campus that night.
Barker, Kelly and Jefferson also had been drinking much of the night.
“I think it’s such a tragedy for so many people that, regrettably, even a long term of incarceration is not likely to heal the wounds of the Kernich family,” Barker’s attorney, Roger Synenberg, said after the verdicts.
“It’s just a sad, sad case. Notwithstanding the testimony,” Synenberg said, “Adrian is really a fine young man with a lot of promise who made a terrible decision in a very short period of time. He had never been in trouble before.
“So, hopefully, this can be a lesson in the future for some young man or woman going to college for the first time to stop before they act and just turn the other cheek.”
Enlow allowed sufficient time for the victim’s father, John Kernich of Fairborn, to make it into court for the reading of the verdicts. He did not address the court.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.