Two mothers on opposite sides of the Justin Back murder case hugged after the second suspect pleaded guilty on Friday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
Sandy Cates and Debra Stewart embraced in the hallway outside the courtroom where Timothy Mosley, 20, of Clayton, pleaded guilty to murdering Back, Cates’ son.
Stewart, Mosley’s mother, was part of large groups of supporters for both families who hugged and talked outside the courtroom after Mosley’s plea.
“When you see this, you understand,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said after the hearing. “There had always been with Tim an acceptance of responsibility that was completely different from what you ever saw with Austin (Myers).”
Prosecutors dropped death penalty specifications from Mosley’s charges in exchange for his testimony against Myers, 19, of Clayton. Mosley admitted stabbing Back but provided testimony that supported evidence — including store receipts and video surveillance — indicating Myers planned the crime, overcoming a series of obstacles that developed in various schemes considered over almost two days.
Judge Donald Oda II said Mosley would be sentenced in about six weeks, but the plea deal said Mosley would not contest life in prison without parole.
On Thursday, Oda sentenced Myers to death, making him the youngest person awaiting execution in Ohio.
Fornshell said he decided to pursue the death penalty for Myers, in part because he failed to cooperate with investigators and failed to accept responsibility. Fornshell said Mosley deserved the lesser punishment, having provided testimony convincing the jury, which recommended the death penalty for Myers after six hours of deliberation.
On Friday, court employees brought Mosley a trash can and glass of water when he grew ill as prosecutors recounted how he failed to strangle Back to death with a “choke wire” during a struggle in the kitchen of the Cates home outside Waynesville.
After a break, Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold described how Mosley then stabbed Back 21 times, before joining Myers in completing the crime. The Northmont High School classmates then robbed the Cates residence, cleaned up in hopes of making it look like Back had run away. They dumped the body after shooting it twice with Back’s stepfather’s gun and dousing it with chemicals to speed decomposition.
Back, a 2013 Waynesville High School graduate, was 10 days away from entering the Navy. It was unclear how he renewed contact with Myers, whom he had known during their childhood.
On Friday, Sandy Cates acknowledged Mosley took responsibility, but questioned his decision to stab her son to death while he pleaded for his life.
“I don’t understand how you could take the life of someone you just met,” she said during the plea hearing. “Why couldn’t you see Justin was giving you another path?”
Mosley’s only comments during the hearing were “Yes, your honor.” His father, Gary Mosley, hugged Sandy Cates as they exited the courtroom, and the two families gathered and talked outside.
Compared to the Myers trial, “It’s been a completely different experience,” said Dave Schrader, friend of the Cates family.