By Frank Lewis
Jurors in the murder trial of Anthony Stargell, Jr., now know the defense strategy in the case which involves the death of Portsmouth native Tommy Nickles — self defense. According to a story in the Dayton Daily News, the trial began on Monday with jury selection, and during opening arguments, Stargell’s attorney Marshall Lachman told the newly selected jurors Nickles was “reaching for something” at the moment Stargell shoots him.
What has made the case so compelling is that the prosecutor in the case, Daniel Brant, says Stargell not only shot Nickles, but killed his companion dog, Rusty, then set fire to Nickles’ business, Quality One Electric in Dayton on April 2, 2012. Nickles was subsequently buried along with his dog.
In addition to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, arson, and grand theft auto, Stargell is also accused of taking surveillance equipment — 22 counts in all.
In order for the death penalty to come into the sentencing phase, should Stargell be found guilty, the jury must find Stargell guilty of aggravated murder — meaning they must find that Stargell killed Nickles while committing or attempting to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary or aggravated arson. Earlier in the year it was announced that an animal cruelty charge was possibly going to be added to the laundry list of counts.
Brandt said Stargell lied repeatedly to police about knowing Nickles, having been to the business or shooting or killing anyone. According to the account of the trial in the Dayton Daily News, Brandt said Stargell tried to pull out wires connected to surveillance equipment, called a cousin to help him wipe down fingerprints with towels and that the .40-caliber handgun and other guns from Nickles’ business were found at Stargell’s uncle’s residence. Stargell’s uncle is serving a federal prison sentence for arms dealing.
Judge Gregory F. Singer is hearing the case.
Nickles’ mother, Roberta Nickles, his brothers Randy and Darrell, all reside in Scioto County.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.