Man who shot wife sentenced to 15 years

By Deanna Hohler Bottar Record-Courier staff write Published:

Ronald Hambright celebrated his 50th birthday behind bars last month _ a tradition he was sentenced Monday to continue for the next 15 years for trying to kill his wife. The Deerfield man, who formerly operated the Mason-Dixon Barber Shop in Alliance, pleaded guilty to firing three shots at his estranged wife, Melody Jill Hambright, when she arrived at work at the Euclid Garment Manufacturing Co. on Martinel Drive in Kent's Davey Industrial Park Aug. 26. Jill Hambright, as she is known to her friends and family, hadn't even gotten out of her car when Hambright opened fire shortly before 7 a.m., witnesses said. The wounds left her paralyzed from the chest down, said Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Tom Buchanan, who explained that the second shot Hambright fired struck one of his wife's vertebra, severing her spine. "She will not regain the ability to walk and to feel sensation, all of the things we take for granted," Buchanan said, adding that Euclid Garment is adapting a special work station so Mrs. Hambright can return to work. After the shots were fired, Hambright fled the scene, traveling south on S.R. 43 toward Interstate 76. He abandoned his vehicle en route to the interstate and forced Salina Carpenter, 24, at gunpoint to drive him to his sister's home in Summit County's Springfield Township where he was arrested about an hour after pulling the trigger on his wife, police said. Hambright, who was treated for diabetes at St. Thomas Hospital directly after his arrest, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in connection with the shooting, and also to a felony charge of abduction before Judge Joseph Kainrad in Portage County Common Pleas Court Monday. Kainrad sentenced Hambright to serve 15 years in prison on the two charges, which carried a specification that Hambright used a firearm while committing the crimes. Hambright's attorney, Jeff Jakmides, attributed his client's actions to complications from diabetes, including impotence, saying Hambright "just snapped." A room full of perspective jurors milled around the common pleas courtroom in anticipation of the start of Hambright's trial, which was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday. Hambright, who was in the courtroom guarded by a Portage County Sheriff's deputy for a portion of the time the jury sat idle, was escorted out of the courtroom to enter his plea. "He came in this morning and indicated that he would plead to a felonious (assault charge) and go to prison for 11 years," Buchanan said. "We turned it down and offered him to plead to the indictment. He talked it over with his family and agreed to the plea." Mrs. Hambright, who has filed for divorce from her estranged husband of nearly three decades, was contacted by the prosecutor's office before the plea agreement was finalized, Buchanan said. She had been set to testify against her estranged husband at 11 a.m. if the trial had gone as scheduled. Since the shooting, Hambright, who remains in the Portage County Jail, underwent competency testing that determined he was mentally able to withstand a jury trial. Hambright's mental capabilities came into question during a separate incident last year, which also involved his deteriorating marriage. Hambright engaged in a three-hour standoff July 13 with deputies from the sheriff's office, threatening to kill himself when he was served with divorce papers. It was 11 days after his release from jail on the standoff charges that Hambright shot his wife after he underwent competency testing in the jail. Buchanan said the prosecution had much evidence to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hambright was angry about his wife's departure from their marriage and said it was a classic case of "if he couldn't have her to take care of him, no one could have her." "He told people before that he was going to kill her and he went there the day before he shot her and hid in the bushes," he added. "He was seen there. Then he came back (the next day) and fired a snub-nosed .38 Special at her and hit her three times. Then he told people he just shot his wife." Buchanan said there were two bullets left in the five-shot revolver. Witnesses had told authorities they thought they heard four shots fired, but Buchanan said what sounded like the fourth shot was the sound of the windshield breaking. Hambright told his attorney he wanted to study law while in prison.

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