Athens Man Pleads Guilty In River Park Towers Case

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On the heels of a three-year sentence given to an Athens man in connection with a shooting at River Park Towers, news came to light that a third person was possibly involved.

John Michael Fults-Ganey
John Michael Fults-Ganey

John Michael Fults-Ganey, 21, was scheduled to be arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy, both third-degree felonies, on Wednesday, after being indicted on the charges by an Athens County grand jury on Monday.

Instead, he pleaded guilty in an agreement with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, which came after he provided information to them about the person he claims planned and picked the target of the botched robbery attempt that ended in the death of Markel Morrison.

“The state believes other people are responsible, and hopes the Athens Police Department will continue the investigation or turn it over to the prosecutor’s office,” Blackburn told the court during the plea hearing on Wednesday.

Fults-Ganey was arrested after a May 26 incident in which police responded to a reported shooting at 36 N. McKinley Avenue, apartment 810. Morrison, 22, was found dead outside of the residence, according to previous WOUB reporting.

But investigators claim Morrison was attempting to enter the apartment to commit a burglary and settle a drug debt. Morrison was then shot twice by one of the residents of the apartment, Blackburn said.

Fults-Ganey, who Blackburn said was a part of the “marijuana trade” in Athens, allegedly drove Morrison to River Park for the alleged attempted burglary, then waited at a nearby bar. He later turned himself into the Athens Police Department, prosecutors said.

“The problem for John is that nobody would have ever known that he had any part of this if he had not walked into the police department and turned himself in,” said Fults-Ganey’s defense attorney, Susan Gwinn. “He did that so police would know about the third person involved.”

Gwinn said Fults-Ganey, a senior at Ohio University and father of a one-year-old, “didn’t fit in” when he came to the university. She said he turned himself in because he was upset about the death of his friend.

“John, himself, never pulled the trigger,” Gwinn said.

Under the agreement, Fults-Ganey will serve a three-year prison sentence, followed by a five years of community control. If he had been sentenced to the maximum sentence, Fults-Ganey would have had to serve a total of eight years in prison and pay a $20,000 total fine.

In exchange for the sentence, the prosecutor’s office will not charge Fults-Ganey with additional counts. He has also agreed to testify against other “co-conspirators” if they are indicted, Blackburn said.

He was originally charged with one count of murder and one count of complicity to aggravated burglary in Athens County Municipal Court. Felony charges are not typically tried in municipal court.