City teen handed 13-year sentence in stabbing death

STEUBENVILLE – Jalontay Johnson, 17, of Steubenville officially was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Wednesday by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. in connection with the stabbing death of his friend on July 25.

Demitrius Thomas, 17, was stabbed to death in an alley in the rear of the 3000 block of Lawson Avenue.

Johnson, who was charged with murder, pleaded guilty in February to the amended charge of voluntary manslaughter. He was bound over from juvenile court on the murder charge. A juvenile judge automatically can send a juvenile’s case to adult court if probable cause is shown the act was committed.

But voluntary manslaughter is a discretionary bindover.

Bruzzese stayed the sentencing and sent the case back to Juvenile Judge Sam Kerr for further proceedings.

A study was conducted to determine if Johnson is amenable to rehabilitation in the juvenile system.

Kerr in his bindover order stated the victim was stabbed multiple times over a distance of nearly 140 feet by Johnson. The judge said Thomas and Johnson were friends at the time, and that Johnson acted under provocation.

Kerr said there is evidence on both sides to support the bindover or keeping the case in juvenile court.

“The seriousness of this act, its nature, the brutality and viciousness of the offense is relevant to (Johnson) not being amenable to care or rehabilitation within the juvenile system and that the safety of the community may require that (Johnson) by subject to adult sanctions,” Kerr said.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com.)