A man found guilty in the 2013 death of a Wellington resident will avoid time in jail, instead receiving a probation sentence April 26 in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.
Nick Masley, 27, of Elyria, will serve five years of probation and pay $4,920 for funeral expenses to the family of Jeffrey Brooks, 25, of Wellington.
Brooks died Dec. 14, 2013 — two days after being punched multiple times in the face by Masley at an Elyria residence. Prosecutors said Masley lured Brooks to the location to confront him for getting 24-year-old Kayla Ellis addicted to heroin.
Ellis is Masley’s cousin and was Brooks’ finance.
Masley was originally charged with murder and felonious assault but was found guilty March 26 of third-degree involuntary manslaughter and two counts of misdemeanor assault.
Since Brooks’ death, Masley has served 412 days in the Lorain County Jail and 592 days of house arrest — factors judge James Miraldi said played into his decision against further time behind bars for the defendant.
“I can’t bring the deceased back,” Miraldi said to Masley. “But under the circumstances, given the jury verdict that you did not try to cause serious physical harm, I find those factors do weigh in favor of a community control sanction with a max prison time hanging over your head.”
Masley will be required to hold a job, complete anger management, and undergo counseling and drug testing. A violation of those terms could lead to a three-year prison sentence with credit for time already served, Miraldi said.
“I just want to say I’m deeply sorry for my actions every day,” Masley told the victim’s family. “I truly regret them and I wish I could take it back. The only thing I can do is move forward from this and continue to move forward.”
Defense attorney Kenneth Lieux asked the court for a community control sentence, citing his client’s remorse and good behavior while in custody.
“Mr. Masley has family, a network of support to help him through this,” he said. “I ask the court to take all of that into account and consider if the principles and purposes of this sentencing have beet met already. It’s worth mentioning that Nick has truly been remorseful of his actions on that particular day. It’s been stated in this courtroom on many occasions why he did what he did. I think you’ll recall from his interview tape that he certainly expressed immediately regret and concern. From the beginning, I don’t think he intended for this to happen when he threw those punches.”
Lorain County assistant prosecutor Donna Freeman said she feared what message a community control sentence would send to the public.
”There was ample evidence to suggest that Jeffrey Brooks did nothing to provoke this,” she said. “He was simply walking down steps with a cup of Kool-Aid when Nicholas Masley sucker punched him and attacked him.”
“But one punch wasn’t enough,” she added. “After Nicholas Masley punched Jeffrey Brooks once in the face, and he was lying unconscious and defenseless on those steps, Nicholas Masley decided to continue punching him in his head and face on purpose until Jeffrey Brooks’ brain swelled and he died.”
Brooks’ parents, Gaylord and Christen Gunder, addressed Masley before the sentence was decided.
“You were judge, jury, and executioner,” the victim’s mother said. “You didn’t help Kayla, your cousin. She’s still doing drugs. Why is that? She has a disease called addiction. When you took Jeff’s life you failed Kayla, your family, your brother, humanity, and God. We lost our son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and friend. Jeff had more to offer than drugs and never had a chance to redeem himself.”
After the hearing, Brooks’ father shared fond memories of his son and said he wants to raise awareness of how quickly and drastically addiction can befall anyone.
“I just hope, somehow, that my son’s loss of his life becomes some kind of a statement to help prevent these kinds of pointless murders,” he said. “In my heart it was a murder. I can’t change the jury’s thoughts on that. What are you going to do? We all have to move forward but in the process of moving forward we have this pain and void of our son not being here. My son was a Boy Scout, Troop 318, with me. He was a fisherman who loved nature. He helped local farmers in our community. He did a lot.”
“Jeff had so much going for him,” he said. “He went to college and received a degree. He wasn’t only a drug addict. There was more to his life than that. He had a demon. We need to educate the older folks, the younger folks, and have programs that help to open the eyes of people. We need to have funding for programs to help people get off these addictions.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
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