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Findlay man pleads guilty to murder

Harris

Harris

By RYAN DUNN
STAFF WRITER

A Findlay man pleaded guilty Tuesday to fatally shooting Joe Gutierrez III on a city street in November.

In a plea agreement, Ralph G. Harris III, 21, admitted to charges of murder, an unclassified felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and four drug possession charges, all felonies, during a hearing in Hancock County Common Pleas Court.

Harris will be sentenced in October. He faces from 18 years to life in prison on the murder charge alone.

Gutierrez was shot several times at about 1:10 a.m. Nov. 8 when he got out of a vehicle at the intersection of East Foulke and Crystal avenues. Gutierrez was one of five people in that vehicle, police said.

He died from the bullet wounds within minutes, according to a coroner’s report.

Harris told Judge Joseph Niemeyer he fired at Gutierrez from inside another car. Harris did not tell the judge why he shot Gutierrez.

Prosecutor Mark Miller has said it was not a gang-related shooting.

These are his first felonies, Harris told the judge.

Harris, handcuffed and wearing an orange inmate uniform, stared intently at the judge as he replied to Niemeyer’s questions with brief answers.

As part of Harris’ plea negotiation, he provided a sworn statement to police about what happened and about his co-defendant, Montre Robinson. Harris agreed to testify against Robinson if needed.

Robinson, 21, of Findlay, is scheduled for an Oct. 14 trial. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including murder.

Harris faces a range of 18 years to life in prison for committing murder with a firearm from a vehicle, Judge Niemeyer said.

Harris said he and Robinson tampered with evidence after the shooting by parking their vehicle, a 1992 Oldsmobile, in Fostoria to avoid police detection.

Harris also admitted four drug charges: possessing between the bulk amount and five times the bulk amount of hydrocodone, a fourth-degree felony; less than the bulk amount of oxycodone, a fifth-degree felony; between the bulk amount and five times the bulk amount of oxycodone, a third-degree felony; and less than 5 grams of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony.

Prosecutors agreed to not seek more than a maximum four-year prison sentence for the drug convictions.

Police arrested Harris and Robinson on drug charges during a traffic stop less than 20 hours after the shooting.

Officers found clothing, cash and a handgun in their vehicle during the arrests, according to police.

Harris was scheduled for an evidence suppression hearing Tuesday morning. His hearing began two and a half hours later with the guilty pleas.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 30 after a pre-sentence investigation is conducted. Harris remains in jail on a $1 million bond.

Dunn: 419-427-8417
Send an E-mail to Ryan Dunn
Twitter: @CourierRyan

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