Guilty plea puts quick halt to trial

LISBON – After a Columbiana County Common Pleas Court jury was selected and two witnesses had already testified against him, Christian Radcliff returned from lunch Monday afternoon and pleaded guilty to shooting Tyler Austin last July.

Radcliff, 26, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault with a weapons specification, which carries a potential sentence of up to 11 years in prison. Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble said there was no deal offered to Radcliff as to what sentence will be requested from Judge Scott Washam. The minimum sentence is five years.

In his opening statement to the jury, Gamble had described July 24 as a bright summer day when Austin, along with Anthony Anderson and Derek Thompson, had been playing basketball at a playground in the East End of East Liverpool.

The three started walking down an alley and approached a home at 1243 Pennsylvania Ave. where Radcliff, who is also known as Money, was on the front porch. According to Gamble, Money had been selling drugs from the house, and was there with Christopher Seaton and his stepson, Marcel Weaver.

There had been some bad blood between some of them and there was some yelling back and forth. John Thompson reportedly had come and parked across the street. Gamble said at one point, Money went into the house.

“Money walks into 1243 Pennsylvania Ave. and back out into the street and bam!” Gamble yelled. “That bullet went right past John Thompson’s nose and right into Tyler Austin’s gut.”

Two East Liverpool police officers, patrolman Christopher Green and Detective Craig Smith, both testified to seeing a vehicle weaving recklessly through the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Parkway. When they stopped the vehicle, Derek Thompson got out and said his friend had just been shot. Austin was in another vehicle driven by Joe English, which was traveling behind Derek Thompson’s vehicle and was allowed to proceed to the hospital.

The police and Derek Thompson returned to the shooting location, which was just across the street from the ABC Carryout. Thompson told police what had happened and they began checking the area for evidence.

Gamble was prepared to show the jury surveillance video of the shooting from the carryout’s outside cameras if the trial had continued. The video also showed two people, including one believed to be Radcliff, running from the house shortly after the shooting.

Both police officers testified they did not locate the gun, shell casings or any blood in the street where the shooting occurred. Police searched not only the street, sidewalk and the house on Pennsylvania Avenue but two other vacant homes and the nearby home of a known associate of Radcliff, Holly Weyand, looking for the shooter and evidence.

Austin was taken to East Liverpool City Hospital and police believe he was later transported by helicopter to a Pittsburgh area hospital. He survived the shooting and the bullet was never removed, according to Gamble.

According to Smith, Money was known for wearing purple, including the purple sneakers he was wearing in the courtroom, and has several tattoos, including one on each hand which say “Blood” and “Money.”

Sentencing was set for Aug. 8.