NEW PHILADELPHIA — Samantha S. Owen will be required to spend six months in the Stark Regional Community Correction Center in Louisville for her role in a Dec. 5, 2018, robbery and shooting near Newcomerstown.
Judge Edward O'Farrell imposed Owen's sentence at a hearing on Thursday in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court. She was also placed on five years of probation. If she does not follow the rules of the Stark County residential treatment program, where she is being sent for her addiction problems, she would face six months in the Tuscarawas County Jail. And should she violate the rules of her probation, she could serve four years in prison.
As part of a plea agreement, Owen pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony. Charges of attempted murder, felonious assault and conspiracy were dismissed.
Owen, 29, of Newcomerstown, is the fourth of five people to be sentenced in the incident. Lucian Lambes is serving a 19-year sentence for three counts of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault, aggravated robbery and using a gun in the crimes. Ian Cultrona is serving 11 years for three counts of felonious assault, aggravated robbery and using a gun in the crimes. Douglas M. Casteel is serving 19 years for attempted murder, felonious assault, aggravated robbery and using a gun in the crimes as part of a negotiated plea bargain.
A fifth suspect, Lisa A. Freetage, 35, of West Lafayette, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday on a charge of obstructing justice.
Owen set up a marijuana purchase last year on a remote highway near Newcomerstown that was part of a plan to rob a drug dealer. A car chase resulted, in which a 17-year-old boy suffered the loss of a fingertip and a leg injury from gunshots fired during the chase.
The hour-long sentencing hearing for Owen took place in a crowded courtroom, as students from Conotton Valley Union Local Schools and Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools watched as part of Law Day activities.
Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Styer asked O'Farrell to sentence Owen to 90 days of jail and three years of probation. Should she violate probation, he asked that she be sentenced to five years in prison.
He said she was an active participant in the robbery, though he noted that both she and Freetage were largely manipulated by the men involved in the crime.
Owen had testified at Cultrona's and Lambes' trials that she did not know that a robbery was being planned, a denial that Styer said was unbelievable.
"My impression of her testimony was that the testimony evolved from the first trial to the second trial, in that her memory seemed to improve a bit as we developed the date and the timelines and had her own text messages that she was sending and receiving to hold her feet to the fire, so to speak, to the truth," the prosecutor said.
But he added that her testimony was instrumental in convicting the three men most culpable in the crime.
Defense attorney David L. Blackwell said his client did not misconstrue the facts. Because Styer had the chance to question her in two different trials, he could elicit better information from her in the second trial.
Blackwell noted that Owen, married and the mother of four children, has a long history of drug abuse and had used methamphetamines the day of the crime. He urged O'Farrell to include treatment in any sentence he imposed.
Before passing sentence, O'Farrell told the defendant, "I just didn't start thinking about your case today. This is the kind of case that keeps me awake at night, because of the impact on innocent people, primarily those four children of yours. It's just inevitable that any punishment I impose on you is going to be felt perhaps even greater on them and by your husband."
Given a chance to speak on her behalf, Owen repeated her denial that she knew a robbery was being planned.
"I wouldn't do these things," she said. "I didn't know. If I would have known, I would have stopped it."