Glouster Man Sentenced To Diversion Program For Fatal Shooting

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Randy Richmond was not legally justified in shooting Keith “P.J.” Rutter, but also did not intend to kill him, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn told a judge Tuesday.

Richmond, 39, of Glouster, pleaded no contest in Athens County Common Pleas Court to a felony charge of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor charge of negligent homicide in Rutter’s death.

In accordance with a plea bargain, Judge George McCarthy found Richmond guilty and sentenced him to the prosecutor’s diversion program, ordered him to perform 60 hours of community service and pay $1,000 in restitution for funeral expenses. Richmond was also told he could not possess a firearm.

The plea is being held in abeyance, and if Richmond completes the three-year diversion program the criminal case will be terminated. If he fails to live up to the conditions of the plea bargain, he could face up to five years in prison.

Had the case gone to trial and Richmond convicted, he could have faced between one and five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine on the felony charge, and up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine on the misdemeanor.

According to a sheriff’s report cited in court by Blackburn, Richmond told investigators that Rutter, 34, was a suspect in multiple burglaries in the area, including at least three at the home of Richmond’s mother-in-law, Sharon Stover. On June 20, Richmond’s wife spotted Rutter walking up the road and, while she called 911, her husband grabbed a .22 caliber rifle and headed for the rear of his mother-in-law’s house. Richmond told investigators he knelt down in some weeds and began watching and listening for where Rutter might be. When Rutter left Stover’s home, Richmond yelled at him to stop, fired three warning shots in the air and then fired two or three more rounds at him. Richmond told investigators he was firing low, toward Rutter’s legs, to try to stop him.

Blackburn said investigators recovered three bullet casings at the scene.

According to the report cited by Blackburn, Richmond told authorities that Rutter yelled “stop, you got me, I’m done. You got me, I’m down.”

Rutter, who lived nearby, was hit in his side.

Blackburn said the shot that hit Rutter was fired uphill from about 65 feet away, between a couple of trees, and was not an aimed shot.

“…It was a very unlucky shot … it was circumstance and timing (that caused this),” Blackburn told the court. “A split second one way or the other and the shot would have missed. And clearly not something where Mr. Richmond could have seen where he was shooting.”

Blackburn told the court that investigators believe Richmond gave an accurate account of what occurred.

After the shooting, Richmond attempted to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, but Rutter was pronounced dead at the scene.

Blackburn said that neither the Castle Doctrine — which says that under some circumstances deadly force can be used to defend one’s home — nor self-defense apply to the shooting.

“It is clear that Mr. Richmond was not justified, under either the Castle Doctrine or self-defense. Also clear is the fact that Mr. Rutter had a extensive substance abuse problem and was responsible for many burglaries in the area,” Blackburn told the court.

“This happened in a matter of moments and an individual (Richmond), who was fed up with what he felt like was a failed system, made a terrible mistake and it resulted in this incident,” Blackburn told the court.

Although Richmond did not make a statement at Tuesday’s court hearing, Blackburn read a statement from Rutter’s mother, Nannette Justus, who indicated in court that she was in agreement with the plea bargain.

“I want the public to know that PJ was no monster and would never intentionally hurt anyone,” the statement said. “His drug addiction took control over his life and created the ‘theft.’ If P.J. could have controlled his behavior he would have.”

She said she attempted to enter him into rehab twice in the past six months and was turned away due to lack of accommodations.

“Please understand that his illness was very serious and if anyone else is struggling with this type of behavior get outside help and don’t take no for an answer,” she wrote. “I would like to apologize to the public for what my son has done to anyone, but have respect for me, because I was his mother and I have lost part of my heart.”