Marcus Barnes was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison after apologizing "from every part of (his) insides" for the death and assault of two Kent State University students at a party last fall.
"I tell myself often this is a bad dream," Barnes told those assembled in the Portage County Common Pleas courtroom of Judge Joseph Kainrad. "I never meant to harm anyone. I hope and pray you forgive me. No one is hurting as bad as me."
After more than four hours of deliberation on Feb. 20, a jury found the 23-year-old Kent resident guilty of involuntary manslaughter and felonious assault after he fatally knifed Christopher Wawrin, 21, and stabbed Christopher DeAngelis, 20, five times. Barnes will serve consecutive sentences of nine and six years for the respective convictions.
The stabbings occurred Nov. 22 after a fight at a party at 976 W. Main St. in Kent. Barnes was the only African-American present at the gathering of 20 to 30 people.
Barnes was found not guilty of murder and attempted murder, charges that followed from the prosecution's claim he baited Wawrin and DeAngelis toward him and stabbed both with intent to kill.
"Under the (state sentencing) guidelines, I guess I'm satisfied," said Andy Wawrin, Christopher Wawrin's father. "But I would do anything to have my son back."
Wawrin's son was to be the best man at his wedding May 9.
"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish it was him when the phone rings," Wawrin said through tears. "But then, reality sets in, and I know it will never be again. He was my beautiful son and only child. He was the joy of my life."
"I had my hand on his chest in the hospital bed," he added. "I will never forget the pain when I felt his last heartbeat."
Christopher Wawrin died December 1 at Robinson Memorial Hospital, where he was taken after the fight. Medical testimony during the trial revealed the axillary artery under his arm had been severed by a single stab.
"You have taken from me the most important person in my life, Wawrin said, turning to Barnes. "You might as well have stabbed me, because you've stolen my zest for life, my future. A large part of me is buried in that grave with my son."
"For 10 days, we watched our son die," Simmons said. "We were helpless. His death is the hardest thing I've ever experienced. I wish I could see him walk in through that door."
Calling the claim that Barnes acted in self-defense "incredible," Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Eugene Muldowney argued Barnes should receive the maximum 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and eight for felonious assault. Muldowney argued that Barnes had hid the weapon and baited Wawrin and DeAngelis into conflict and showed no subsequent remorse.
"When you stab someone with a deadly weapon twice in the back of the neck, then in the back, and you stab a second person in the armpit _ how can you say you had no intent to hurt anyone? That's a lie."
Portage County Public Defender Dennis Lager, in turn, sought the respective three- and two-year minimums, asserting the "inebriated" victims provoked Barnes with racial epithets and "knocked him into the street." Barnes acted in self-defense, has experienced genuine remorse, was "brutally frank" under oath and had no serious criminal record, Lager said.
"There is another side of Christopher Wawrin that his parents chooses to overlook," Lager added. "He was given to drinking and violence and is not blameless."
"This has caused me great pain," Barnes said. "I can't imagine what these families must feel. From every part inside of me, I'm sorry for what happened that night. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
Barnes said Christopher Wawrin's mother, Becky Simmons, hugged him at one time during the trial _ an experience he called "overwhelming."
"I have great remorse," he added.
"This case is tragic for everyone in this court room, everyone in society," said Kainrad, who added that, while Barnes used "a deadly weapon," the victims themselves were "quite soused" and not without responsibility.
"But Mr. Barnes," he said "you intended to take that weapon and assault them. You can call it (self) defense, but you had a deadly weapon. They didn't. You could have left."
The defendant is ineligible for parole, Lager said. Barneswill filing an appeal.