A Miamisburg man avoided any chance of the death penalty by pleading guilty Friday to his role in the gruesome killing of Lisa Spinks in September 2011.
Joshua J. Sellers, 28, agreed to a sentence of life in prison without parole plus 18 years. If Sellers had gone to trial and been found guilty of the charged counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse and possession of criminal tools, he could have faced the death penalty.
Instead, he waived his right to a jury trial and had his case heard by a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court panel of Judges Timothy N. O’Connell, Mary Wiseman and Dennis Langer. After a half-hour deliberation, all three judges said the state proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and accepted Sellers’ plea. The judges plan to sentence Sellers and co-defendant Jamie Shaffer Aug. 13.
Wearing a blue and white striped dress shirt, Sellers told the judges that his education ended after eighth grade but that he could read, write and understand the English language. He then said he was “guilty” to each and every count and specification.
Police said Sellers and Shaffer, 23, killed Spinks, 20, on Sept. 24, 2011 by stabbing her in the neck. The pair then twice dragged Spinks’ body onto Miamisburg railroad tracks and covered it with brush before it was severed by trains.
Shaffer and Sellers were indicted Oct. 5, 2011 and have been in Montgomery County Jail on $1 million bonds.
Shaffer pleaded guilty May 13 and agreed to life in prison without parole plus 18 years to the same charges. As part of his plea deal, Shaffer had agreed to testify for the prosecution in the trial which had been scheduled to start Tuesday.
The mitigating factors listed by Shaffer’s defense included that Shaffer had reactive detachment disorder, that he had below-average intelligence and that Shaffer was under “duress, coercion and provocation” by Sellers. Shaffer has not yet been formally sentenced.
Defense attorney Marshall Lachman said he and co-counsel Bobby Joe Cox on Thursday received the proposed plea agreement and spent about two hours going over it with Sellers to show him that it “took death off the table.”
Lachman said mitigating factors against Sellers getting the death penalty were included in three doctors’ evaluations provided to the court.
The three-judge capital punishment hearing/trial mirrored Shaffer’s case, with the prosecution giving an opening statement about the night the two planned and carried out Spinks’ murder. Prosecutor Mary Montgomery said Sellers tried to get a shotgun that day, tried to set up a fake alibi after the murder and that Sellers’ actions “merit the death penalty” but that the plea deal would stand.