Columbus, Ohio - In a solemn courtroom session on Wednesday, Judge Mark Serrott sentenced 33-year-old Johnnie Wappner to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 21 years for the murder of his 32-year-old neighbor, Marcus Deloney. The tragic incident occurred on September 21, 2022, in the Sharon Heights area of Columbus, during a heated argument over a parking spot outside a duplex.
A jury in Franklin County Common Pleas court had found Wappner guilty on November 17, 2022, of murder, reckless homicide, and felonious assault. The court heard that the confrontation between the Wappner and Deloney families over the parking spot escalated, resulting in Wappner striking Deloney on the head multiple times with a firearm before fatally shooting him in the back.
During the sentencing, Judge Serrott expressed his dismay at the senseless murder, emphasizing that it was another tragic example of the pervasive issue of gun violence in Columbus. The judge had earlier denied Wappner's request for a new trial, stating that the killing was over a parking spot.
Lumumba Toure McCord, one of Wappner's attorneys, argued that the incident was not a purposeful murder but possibly the result of negligence or recklessness. McCord contended that the jury should have considered evidence suggesting that Wappner was defending another person, specifically his teenage stepson. Witnesses testified that Deloney was allegedly choking Wappner's stepson, leading to Wappner's intervention.
However, Judge Serrott pointed out that the autopsy revealed that the gunshot, not the head injuries, caused Deloney's death. Furthermore, Serrott noted that Deloney had testified that the gunshot was accidental, making the defense of defending someone and accidental shooting incompatible legal theories.
During the sentencing hearing, Wappner did not address the court, expressing his intention to appeal the case. Marcus Deloney's mother, Deborah Payne, spoke passionately, condemning Wappner's lack of remorse. She expressed her hope for Wappner to find a "permanent parking spot in prison" until justice is served, either through divine intervention or natural causes.
Marcus Deloney was remembered as a beloved figure, described by Judge Serrott as having a significant impact on those around him. The court received numerous letters attesting to Deloney's positive influence on the community, further highlighting the loss resulting from the tragic incident.
As the case concludes with a life sentence for Johnnie Wappner, it stands as a poignant reminder of the far-reaching consequences of disputes and the pressing issue of gun violence in Columbus.