Stabbing case sent back to adult court

STEUBENVILLE – Juvenile Judge Sam Kerr has sent a case involving a fatal stabbing back to adult court for sentencing.

Jalontay Johnson, 17, pleaded guilty in February in adult court after being bound over from juvenile court to an amended indictment charging voluntary manslaughter and two counts of tampering with evidence in connection with the July 25 stabbing death of Demitrius Thomas, 17, in an alley in the rear of the 3000 block of Lawson Avenue.

Johnson was sentenced to 13 years in prison by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr., but it was determined during the hearing that the case should be sent back to juvenile court for further proceedings.

A murder charge in juvenile court is an automatic bindover to adult court. But the voluntary manslaughter bindover is discretionary for a juvenile judge.

Juvenile court must conduct a study, which includes a psychological profile, to determine if the juvenile is amenable to treatment in the juvenile justice system or if the case should be bound over to adult court.

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.