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Defendant in North Ridgeville murder trial: I didn't mean to shoot her

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ELYRIA — Tears streamed down Randy Hamilton’s face Friday morning as he recounted for a jury the moments leading up to him shooting his live-in girlfriend last year.

“I told her to give me the g------ gun and I grabbed the gun,” he said. “I grabbed the gun and she tried to hang on to it and I pushed her on her right shoulder. I pushed her back into the bedroom and saw the gun was cocked, and I tried to uncock it and it went off. I could tell it was bad. I ran for help.”

“Did you mean to shoot her?” defense attorney Kenneth Lieux asked him.

“No,” Hamilton responded, crying.

Hamilton, 51, of North Ridgeville, is facing charges of murder, felonious assault, having weapons under disability and receiving stolen property after he called 911 on Oct. 25, 2016, and said he had just “shot his old lady.”

When police arrived to the couples’ Avon Belden Road home, they found Michelle Ryals, 45, in a bedroom with a single gunshot wound to the chest. She was pronounced dead at the scene and the 12-gauge shotgun used to kill her was found a few feet from Hamilton in the couple’s garage, where he was waiting for officers and was removed from the scene without incident.

During his testimony Friday, Hamilton admitted he should not have had the gun in his possession that was used to shoot Ryals. He said he had it because his job doing maintenance at the Lorain County Airport in New Russia Township required him to use it to scare animals.

But because of Hamilton’s felony record, it is illegal for him to have the gun in his possession, which he said he knew when he took it.

He said he took the gun home in his work truck and left it there for Ryals to use as protection while he was out of town the week before her death.

“When I got back, it was out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

Hamilton said the night of Ryals’ death, the couple had been entertaining at their home for the Cleveland Indians being in the World Series and both had several beers and shots during the festivities.

“What I drank, she drank and whatever she drank, I drank,” he said.

Officers who responded to the scene following the shooting said they believed Hamilton was drunk because they could smell the alcohol on his breath and toxicology reports indicated Ryals’ blood-alcohol content was about 0.15 percent or 0.16, twice the legal limit to operate a vehicle.

Hamilton said after the guests left he told Ryals she shouldn’t “be lazy like her sister” when it came to housework and if she did a little bit at a time they “wouldn’t get so far behind.”

“She got pissed and started arguing back, saying, ‘You don’t need to tell me what to do. Don’t call me lazy,’” he said. “She told me not to say s--- about her family and I walked away and I said, ‘I’ll do it myself like always’ and I laid down in the bed.”

Hamilton said he had laid down in his bedroom, which he had in case either one of them worked odd hours, and Ryals came in and had hit him in the head and told him that if he didn’t like the way they lived he could get out.

Hamilton said Ryals went down the hall and into her bedroom and closed the door.

“I tried to open the door, but it didn’t open,” he said. “I was pissed and I took my shoulder, and it broke the door open.”

Hamilton said Ryals yelled at him for breaking the house, but he said he was able to fix it and threw the broken door molding on the bed.

“I went to leave, but I turned around and she had the shotgun,” he said.

On cross examination, Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo noted several inconsistencies in Hamilton’s testimony compared with testimony presented Thursday, including Lorain County Deputy Coroner Frank Miller saying Ryals had been shot in the upper chest despite Hamilton saying he was holding the gun at waist height.

Cillo also said Ryals did “a heck of a lot” to get away from Hamilton the night she died, going so far as to lock the bedroom door and evidence indicated she was attempting to move a dresser in front of a door when Hamilton broke through.

“When you lock a door, do you want people to come in?” Cillo said. “And this door was locked, so Michelle didn’t want any further interaction with you that evening.”

The defense rested its case Friday and closing statements will be 9 a.m. Monday in front of Common Pleas Court Judge John Miraldi and a jury.

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieHNix.



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