Jury finds man not guilty of aggravated murder

By Joe Gorman



Jurors in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found a man charged with killing another man over the theft of electricity not guilty of aggravated murder — and could not reach a verdict on several other charges.

Michael Paige, 22, who was on trial for the March 1, 2012, shooting death of 31-year-old Munir Blake, remains in the county jail because jurors could not reach verdicts Monday on lesser offenses of murder, voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence.

One of his attorneys, Doug Taylor, said he had no comment afterward except to say that he will confer with Paige’s family and perhaps have a bond hearing at a later date. His client has been in jail since he was arrested in the slaying.

Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews also had no comment other than to say he expects the case to be retried.

Blake was killed after being shot nine times inside a building in the 200 block of Lora Avenue on the North Side after police say he feuded with a neighbor, Jasmine Fletcher, 23, because she was stealing electricity from him.

Jurors began hearing testimony Feb. 25 before Judge Maureen Sweeney in the case against Paige. The two main witnesses were Blake’s two older children, who did not see the shooting but heard the argument that preceded it.

Judge Sweeney is off the bench this week. Visiting Judge H.F. Inderlied received the verdict.

Blake’s family members were sobbing after the decision was announced. They declined to comment.

Jurors began deliberating Friday morning and weighed the case about 10 hours between Friday and Monday.

Paige did not testify, but he did confess to police a day after Blake’s death. A defense witness who was next door at the time of the shooting said that the children ran over to the house where he was and screamed, “She shot him.” Defense attorneys told jurors that meant co-defendant Fletcher had pulled the trigger but Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews told jurors the children were confused because Paige has a high-pitched voice.

Fletcher pleaded guilty Feb. 24 to single counts of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of three years but she has yet to be sentenced. She did not testify at the trial.

Defense attorneys also emphasized that Paige was tested for gunshot residue and none was found, and Fletcher was tested for gunshot residue and her test was positive. Prosecutors said that because Blake was shot in a small, enclosed area, anyone would get gunshot residue on them.

Judge Inderlied released the jury about 3:30 p.m. Monday after the jury foreman said there was no way jurors could reach a verdict on the other counts.

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