On his first day working for a local contractor, Gerardo “Jerry” Juarez was excited about his new job.

On his second day, the Akron man fell off the third-story roof he was repairing, receiving fatal injuries.

James D. Coon, the owner of the company Juarez worked for, failed to provide safety equipment to Juarez that could have prevented his fatal plunge in November 2017.

“He knew his responsibility — and still neglected to follow those rules,” Mison Woo, Suarez’s wife, said tearfully Friday afternoon following Coon’s sentencing.

Coon, 53, the owner of the now-defunct James Coon Construction, pleaded guilty July 24 to involuntary manslaughter and worker’s compensation fraud, both felonies.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty sentenced Coon on Friday to three years in prison. He faced up to 4½ years.

Coon was hired to fix the roof at Timber Top, a three-story apartment complex at 1384 Timber Trail in Akron’s Merriman Valley. Juarez, 39, fell from the roof of one of the complex’s buildings on Nov. 4, 2017, suffering injuries that proved fatal.

In addition to failing to provide Juarez with safety equipment, Coon also disregarded his legal responsibility to have worker’s compensation coverage, according to the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation.

Under a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed charges of reckless homicide and another count of fraud.

Several family members for Juarez and Coon attended the sentencing, with both sides at times getting teary.

Maria Green, Juarez’s mother-in-law who wore a T-shirt with Juarez’s photo on the front, had difficulty speaking because she was so emotional. She asked Coon to look at Juarez’s five children in the gallery and tell them why they no longer have a father.

“I will never forgive you,” she said to Coon. “You do not deserve a break. All they have are his pictures, memories and a box of ashes. Shame on you.”

Assistant Prosecutor Devorah Pasternak urged McCarty to impose the maximum sentence, pointing to the void his loss left for his family.

Christopher Parker, Coon’s attorney, however, suggested a lesser sentence. He said his client accepted responsibility and is remorseful. He also said Coon will need to work to compensate the Juarez family for the family’s recently filed wrongful death lawsuit.

Coon apologized to the Juarez family.

“I’d turn back the hands of time and trade places with Jerry,” he said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how painful this loss must be for his family.”

McCarty said Coon has been in the construction business for nearly two decades and had two other employees who fell off or through roofs they were repairing. Because of this, she said, he knew the danger his employees were in without the required safety equipment.

“Certainly, you didn’t intend for this to happen, Mr. Coon, and I believe you are remorseful," she said. "That doesn’t change the fact it did happen, and it could have been prevented.”

McCarty said she will consider allowing Coon out of prison early. She ordered him to pay $303,152 in restitution to the worker’s compensation bureau.

“I love you, Daddy,” Coon’s daughter said from the gallery as a deputy put handcuffs on her father and led him from the courtroom.

“I love you,” he replied.

After the sentencing, Woo said she wished she could change places with Coon’s family.

“I would rather that it be Jerry going to jail and us being able to tell him goodbye,” she said, tearfully.

Woo said she hopes Coon will care more about his employees if he continues in the construction business after he’s released from prison.

“That should be his No. 1 thing: Making sure his workers are safe,” she said.

Andrea Juarez, Jerry’s 12-year-old daughter, said she misses her father.

“I want to be able to see my dad,” she said, crying. “It’s hard to think about that.”

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter@swarsmithabj.