Niles man could get 12 years in prison for kidnapping child

By Ed Runyan


Ross A. Francis, who drove off in a car parked in a Niles driveway with a 3-year-old boy in the back seat, pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping and grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Francis, 43, of Robbins Avenue, Niles, will be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison after the Trumbull County Adult Probation Department conducts a presentence investigation.

Francis entered the plea in the courtroom of Judge Peter Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Francis was arrested in Lordstown by an off-duty Warren police officer at 5:30 a.m. Oct. 12. Francis had taken the car about 10:45 p.m. the night before.

The boy’s father had left him in the back of the car while he went inside a house on John Street to pick up another child.

Judge Kontos also sentenced Anthony J. Whitacre, 23, of Indiana Avenue, Niles, to 30 months in prison after being convicted by a jury a month ago of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Whitacre had sexual intercourse and engaged in oral sex with a 13-year-old girl May 2, 2010, near Murphy Park in Niles when Whitacre was 20 years old.

Whitacre used no force against the girl, but a child 13 years of age isn’t legally able to give consent to sex, said Diane Barber, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, who prosecuted the case.

Whitacre also will have to register as a sex offender for 25 years.

Meanwhile, Raymond Diefenderfer, 33, of Logan Avenue, Sharon, Pa., and Nellie Street, Warren, has been sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to felonious assault and illegal possession of a firearm in a bar.

Diefenderfer shot a man in the leg at 3:07 a.m. Sept. 16 in Club Topsy, 8426 Lorain St., during an argument over a woman.

Police said Diefenderfer shot Bryan Bacon, 39, of Castle Rock Road, Brookfield, after Bacon made comments about Diefenderfer’s girlfriend.

Judge Kontos also ordered that Daniel Miller, 47, of West Farmington be evaluated to determine whether he is competent to stand trial and whether he was sane at the time he purportedly sexually assaulted seven girls between age 5 and 14.

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