- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A man convicted of killing four people in a crime rooted in Ohio’s growing heroin epidemic should spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole, a jury recommended on Friday.

The jury that convicted Derrick Brantley, 22, decided against recommending the death penalty.

Brantley didn’t testify during the four days of testimony in the sentencing hearing. His attorney, John Greven, said they were pleased the jury opted not to choose a death sentence and that there will be an automatic appeal of the conviction.

Brantley was convicted last week of aggravated murder in the April 2013 slayings of the young adults, who were shot in their heads during a drug-related robbery of an Akron townhome.

Prosecutors said the slayings could be traced to the heroin epidemic. All four victims - Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Rashad Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19; and Kiana Welch, 19 - were shot at close range.

While no eyewitnesses testified and no DNA connected Brantley to the shootings, prosecutors said circumstantial evidence such as text messages sent from Brantley’s cellphone linked him to the crime.

Defense attorneys contended that someone else was using Brantley’s phone.

Brantley’s co-defendant, 22-year-old Deshanon Haywood, 22, has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial July 2.

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