Middletown teen’s murder case sent to adult court

Jan 25, 2018

A Butler County grand jury will now consider charges against a 16-year-old Middletown boy accused of fatally shooting a Loveland man on Dec. 8, and he will be tried as an adult.

Paul Dillon Craft was in Butler County Juvenile Court before Judge Ronald Craft on Thursday for a hearing on aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence. Because of his age and the seriousness of the charges, the case is a mandatory bind over to adult court if Craft found probable cause after evidence presented at the hearing.

After a brief hearing, with Middletown Police Detective Jon Hoover testifying, Craft found the probable cause and sent the teen’s case to adult court. The judge set the teen’s bond at $1.275 million and ordered he be housed in the Butler County Jail, seperate from the general population.

FIRST REPORT: Middletown teen charged with murder after drug deal gone bad

Hoover testified the 16-year-old was found hiding in the basement of a house on Crawford Street three days after the fatal shooting of Stephan Cotter, 22, of Loveland, as a result of a drug deal.

Craft told police several versions of what happened, but he eventually confessed that he met up with Cotter and another man with the intent to purchase marijuana and Xanax, but instead, he pulled out a gun and attempted to rob Cotter.

“Once he pulled the gun out … Mr. Cotter turns around and a physical altercation occurred … he admitted to try to rob him,” Hoover said of what the teen said.

A shot was fired, and Cotter was hit in the stomach and died. Hoover said Craft admitted to shooting Cotter but said he did not mean to do it.

MORE: Second teen charged in Middletown ‘drug deal gone bad”

The teen said he purchased the gun from a drug user on Crawford Street the threw it in the river after the shooting, Hoover testified. The gun was not recovered by police.

Facebook messages from Cotter’s cell phone show conversations between Cotter and Craft discussing the drug deal and a map of Middletown telling Cotter to meet him in the 2200 block of Pearl Street, Hoover said. That is where Cotter was fatally shot.

In December after Craft’s arraignment, Traci Combs-Valerio, an attorney who has represented the teen’s mother and step-father, released the following statement: “The minor child is in need of mental health treatment and possibly medications that could significantly help his behaviors. The family is deeply saddened by the allegations and charges levied against the minor child and continue to pray for healing for the victim and his family. The family would like to ask for privacy during this difficult time.”

The teen’s mother does not have custody of him, according to Combs-Valerio.

“While (mother) had custody of the minor child, they began him in mental health treatment at the age of 6,” Combs-Valerio said in a statement to this news outlet. “After years of therapy, careful consideration, and the consideration of safety issues for mother and her other family members still in the home, she allowed the father to take legal custody of the minor child at age 11.”

The co-defendant in the case, Keegan Payne, 19, of Middletown, who is also charged with murder and aggravated robbery, remains housed in the Butler County Jail awaiting grand jury consideration of his case. Payne is being held on $1.25 million bond.

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