By Joe Gorman
A man sentenced for his part in an April 2012 homicide told the victim’s family he hopes they can forgive him someday.
Reginald Whitfield, 23, told the family of 27-year-old Michael Abighanem that he was sorry for his death.
He apologized just before he was sentenced to 13 years in prison by Judge John Durkin on charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery with a specification a firearm was used to commit the crime.
“Right now it seems like they [family] can’t forgive me, but I hope someday they can,” Whitfield said Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Whitfield had been charged with aggravated murder and tampering with evidence, but the tampering charge was dropped and the aggravated murder charge amended to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for his plea. Prosecutors and defense attorney Tony Meranto agreed on the 13-year sentence.
Another man, Kyle Patrick, 19, pleaded guilty Monday, the day his trial was to begin, to charges of murder, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence. He will be sentenced in March. He faces a sentence of 16 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors say Abighanem, of Thalia Street, was killed at a house on Silliman Street on April 27, 2012, when he and a friend tried to sell a video game and laptop computer.
Whitfield said he did not intend for anyone to get hurt. Judge Durkin said based on discussions the attorneys in the case had in his chambers, it appears that Patrick was the person who set up the robbery and was the person who pulled the trigger and killed Abighanem.
Abighanem’s mother, Joanne Mitzel, said her son is leaving behind two children.
“He was a wonderful man and a wonderful father,” Mitzel said.
Abighanem’s aunt, Rosemary Prokop, said the crime was senseless and that laws have to be stronger to discourage them, and to give out harsher punishments.
“It’s uncalled for,” Prokop said. “We have to make stricter laws to stop this.”
Judge Durkin said he would stick to the agreed-upon sentence because Whitfield took responsibility for his actions and also agreed to testify against Patrick should the case have gone to trial.