A 29-year-old Cleveland man took a plea deal Friday that will send him to prison for the rest of his life for gunning down a Cleveland Heights police officer and an Avon native two years ago.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Rick Bombik said his office had wanted to pursue the death penalty in trial against Timothy Halton Jr., but the family of the murdered officer wanted to avoid the risk of Halton being found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The family of 31-year-old Jason West, who grew up in Avon, was in court Friday during the plea and sentencing hearing, Bombik said, but Halton never spoke to them.
“His attorney apologized on his behalf; he didn’t have anything to say,” Bombik said.
Halton shot West as heexited his police car after he went to the neighborhood to help break up a fight. West didn’t have his gun drawn, Bombik said, calling the killing an “assassination.”
“He did nothing to provoke this,” he said.
Prosecutors had wanted to push the death penalty, which Halton could have faced had he been convicted, but Halton had mental health issues that could have prevented that from happening.
Halton had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medications in the months before the shooting, according to a homeless shelter where he stayed and received mental health help.
Bombik said the risk that Halton could be found not guilty by reason of insanity would have subjected West’s family to hearings every two years to discuss the killer’s progress and what privileges he would enjoy at the mental hospital where he would be confined.
“They wanted some sort of closure, and nothing could guarantee that except this,” Bombik said.
Halton had mental health issues, Bombik said, but that wouldn’t necessarily have meant he was incompetent to stand trial.
“There’s no question Halton had mental problems, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous,” he said.
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