Probation was terminated for one of two men involved in a drug overdose, despite pleas from the family members of the deceased.
Kevin Byington, 33, Millbury, appeared Tuesday in the courtroom of Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matt Reger.
Byington was the second man sentenced in the 2015 death of Brandon Morris, 30, Northwood. Morris died in Lake Township of a reported heroin overdose.
Byington was sentenced in August 2017 to 36 months in prison. The case came before the court on Oct. 5, 2018, for a hearing on judicial release. The request was granted and Byington was given five years community control.
Since that time, he has violated the terms of community control twice: He was charged with domestic violence Jan. 3, 2020, in Sylvania Municipal Court and a mandatory drug screen conducted Feb. 11, 2020, yielded positive results for alcohol.
Morris’ father, John Clemons, asked Reger to not terminate Byington’s probation.
“I feel that Mr. Byington got off fairly easily since the activities that night resulted in my son’s death,” he said.
Clemons said the court itself, with its delays, a new judge and new prosecutor, prevented the family from filing a civil suit against Byington.
In most states, family members and representatives of the estate of a victim have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
“We’re a victim of what’s legal,” Clemons said.
The family has received no apology from Byington “because he’s a charismatic liar,” Clemons said.
Reger said there have been some bumps since Byington was released from prison after serving one year of a three-year sentence.
Defense attorney Peter Rost said his client has been consistent with compliance. Byingto’s attitude about life is much different than it was five years ago, Rost said.
Byington has had no contact with Morris’ family, so he was never given the opportunity to express an apology, he said.
He said his client plans to marry and move to Michigan.
A request in December 2021 to transfer his probation to Michigan was denied, but permission was granted for him to travel to and from Michigan for work purposes.
Byington apologized for anything he was involved in and said the man he is today is not the same as he was then.
“I’m completely changed,” he said, adding that he wants to be with his family full time.
Byington said a termination of community control would allow him to be a full-time dad in Michigan.
“You’re asking for a privilege,” Reger said, adding that Byington violated terms of community control.
Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said Byington has not done what he was supposed to do while on probation. He has had recent success but that does not mean he has been fully rehabilitated, Dobson said.
“This court placed him on five years community control, which in itself was a privilege,” he said. “This family will never be full again. What they ask is this man who is responsible for that complete the terms (of his community control).”
Reger said the court has to look at the law and that the purposes of probation have been met.
He terminated probation.
Byington and his co-defendant, Joshua Melnek, 36, formerly of Millbury, had been indicted on one count each of involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, and reckless homicide, a third-degree felony.
Melnek pleaded to the amended counts of tampering with evidence and permitting drug abuse and was sentenced in July 2016 to three years in prison.
Byington pleaded guilty in August 2017 to the amended count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, with the involuntary manslaughter count being dismissed.