MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Tony Patete, the Newark man who fired the shots in a Hamilton retaliation shooting that killed two people, has admitted guilt to avoid the death penalty.
The Journal-News reported Patete, 24, pleaded guilty Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court to two counts of aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Judge Greg Stephens.
Patete is convicted of the drive-by shooting deaths of Orlando Gilbert and Todd Berus in August 2016.
That leaves just one defendant, Michael Grevious II, facing the death penalty. Grevious is charged with aggravated murder and felonious assault for a shootout in July 2016 at Doubles Bar. His trial is scheduled to begin in April.
A string of violence in the summer of 2016 began with a shootout at the former bar on the city's west side that killed one person and wounded seven others. That shooting sparked retaliation violence on the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2016, that left Gilbert and Berus dead.
According to prosecutors, Grevious, one of the men involved in the shootout at Doubles Bar, hired Zachary Harris, of Columbus, to kill Gilbert for $5,000.
On the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2016, a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Melinda Gibby pulled up next to a black Ford Mustang occupied by Gilbert and Berus. Patete, the front seat passenger of the truck, opened fire with an AK-47 multiple times, killing Gilbert and Berus, according to court documents.
Patete made no statement before pleading guilty, but did turn and face the victim's family members in the front row when asked to do so by Gilbert's stepfather, Leroy Brown.
"My wife just wants you to look at her … just look at them, that is all I am asking," Brown said.
Patete turned and faced the front row, but showed no emotion.
"Those are the people whose lives were affected," Brown said. "Your life is in God's hands now. God bless you."
Prosecutors and the judge read letters from Berus' mother, grandmother and sisters.
Berus' aunt Mollie Berus stood just a few feet from Patete and read a statement.
"On Aug. 3, 2016, without any thought to the consequences of your actions and with disregard for human life, you took a gun, leaned out the window and opened fire," Mollie Berus said. "You not only shot and killed your intended target, but you also struck and killed an innocent bystander, my beloved nephew Todd. As the police told us, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Mollie Berus said her nephew never got to meet his young daughter.
"Because of you, our family is broken and we cannot pick up the pieces," she said.
In October, Harris pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder, just minutes before his two-week trial was scheduled to being and was given two life sentences.
Gibby pleaded guilty to aggravated murder with an agreed to sentence of 30 years to life. She will not be formally sentenced until after Grevious' trial, where she has agreed to testify.
The Journal-News is a news partner of WCPO.