By Margie Wuebker
A Celina man apologized for his actions in connection with a Sept. 17 stabbing prior to sentencing Friday morning in Mercer County Common Pleas Court. However, he never looked at the victim who continues to recover from serious injuries.
Jason W. Brown, 24, 710 Devonshire Drive, Apt. 8, showed no emotion as Judge Jeffrey Ingraham imposed a four-year prison sentence in keeping with an agreement worked out during plea negotiations. Brown stared ahead as William James Cotrell and members of the Cotrell family looked on from front row seats.
Defense attorney Peter VanArsdel called the altercation a "consensual fracas" and alluded to other things going on that night without mentioning them specifically.
"I wish I had not been drinking or used a knife," Brown said quietly. "I'm sorry for what I did. I want to get on with my life, further my education and deal with my problem."
Police were called to Celina Garden Apartments shortly after 10 p.m. on reports of a fight. They found 32-year-old Cotrell lying face down in a pool of blood at the complex. Witnesses reported he had been stabbed and identified the assailant who fled the scene with several companions. Cottrel lapsed into unconsciousness and was taken by ambulance to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys. Following emergency treatment for six stab wounds including one that pierced a kidney, Cotrell was transferred aboard a LifeFlight helicopter to St. Rita's Medical Center, Lima.
"What started out as a few nasty stares and some name calling ended up later on as a night I spent fighting for my life," Cotrell wrote in a letter his sister-in-law Carmen Cotrell read in court.
Cotrell went to Brown's apartment that night hoping for some kind of resolution to problems that developed earlier in the day. His brother Scott followed him.
"They knew him and everything seemed to be turning out pretty cool," he added. "The next thing I remember is looking down at this throbbing pain I was feeling and seeing my whole abdomen ripped open."
Carmen Cotrell's voice quivered occasionally, including one point where her brother-in-law described wanting to see his 3- and 6-year-old sons and an older brother to proclaim his love for them one last time.
"Today, three months later to the date, I am still fighting infection," he wrote. "I can no longer work and have filed for SSI (Social Security)."
The victim also addressed the matter of punishment, adding he would give Brown life instead of the recommended sentence of no more than five years in prison.
"Why I ask are you giving him a chance to rehab or be free in 2010 when his intention was murder," he wrote. "I will forever live with the consequences of his irrational decision. In five years, he could just put it behind him. Who knows I may not even be here."
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox noted Brown has a history of physical violence, including two offenses as a juvenile and one as an adult. He reportedly has a disorderly conduct meeting pending in Celina Municial Court. It stems from an unrelated incident at the same apartment complex.
Fox called the recommended sentence of five years in prison a "necessary inducement" for Brown's plea. The state also agreed not to oppose judicial release in the event the defendant is found eligible for programs offered at the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation (WORTH) Center in Lima.
Ingraham granted 92 days credit for time already served and ordered restitution totaling $13,508.13.
The second-degree felony charge carried a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine.