Ryan Crews pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to his role in the murder of Eric Zaffer, 45, at his Brighton Township home back in August 2015.
Judge John Miraldi sentenced Crews to 22 years to life in prison for murder, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, involuntary manslaughter, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, breaking and entering, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Zaffer’s relatives said Crews offered a brief apology to them before leaving the courtroom.
“He’s not twisted, I would say,” said the victim’s sister, Teresa Walker. “He knew his mother was upset and apologized to (his family too).”
Carol Zaffer said the Crews family showed sympathy for the loss of her son.
“They all came up to us afterward and were sobbing as we read our statement,” she said. “They apologized and said Crews never told them he was guilty. They didn’t know he was involved in doing this and were shocked. He must’ve told them he was there but didn’t do anything. I really don’t know. They were genuinely sorry.”
Crews, 23, changed his plea just before his Jan. 10 trial date, and a month after conspirator Bishop Howard received a life sentence for the murder of both Zaffer and Farris Jones, 61, of Carlisle Township.
According to prosecutors, Howard fired the shot that killed Zaffer from outside his home’s window before he, Crews, and 20-year-old Trevor White assisted in burglarizing the house and setting it on fire.
Howard, 19, avoided the death penalty and agreed not to seek appeals, parole, or clemency. White is set to go before a jury Feb. 7.
“Howard was very monotone the whole time and very disconnected in his apology,” said Walker. “You could tell Crews was a different individual… Howard is a sociopath, but I don’t know if Crews is that kind of person.”
Howard and a then 14-year-old juvenile broke into Jones’ home where Howard beat him to death with a baseball bat. Then both covered the body with broken eggs and stole an antique firearm. Jones’ body was discovered by a friend on July 17, 2015.
The juvenile has already been sentenced to two years in the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.