Man sentenced for role in fatal 2021 burglary

YOUNGSTOWN — Timothy M. Underwood, 31, was sentenced to 12 to 16 1/2 years in prison Thursday for his role in the Nov. 20, 2021, shooting death of Marquise T. Lewis, 27, in a home on Plum Street just west of downtown.

Underwood pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter, a firearm specification, burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His indictment stated that Underwood was responsible for the death of Lewis “as a proximate result of (Underwood) committing or attempting to commit” burglary in the incident.

Police and prosecutors never gave a clear picture of how Lewis died, only saying he was found dead from gunfire inside a home in the 500 block of Plum Street. Police went to the home after a neighbor reported hearing a “loud bang” and asked police to investigate.

Police said Lewis did not live in the home, and police did not know how he got into the house.

But during Underwood’s sentencing hearing Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews said Underwood, Lewis “and possibly another party broke into the home” on Plum Street.

“While they were committing that burglary, Mr. Lewis was shot and killed. Based on the fact that Mr. Underwood was committing a burglary at the time, of course, under the felony murder law, (Underwood) was indicted for that murder,” Andrews said.

According to the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School, “The felony murder rule … allows anyone who is accused of committing a violent felony to be charged with murder if the commission of that felony results in the death of someone. The people involved in the felony may be charged for murder under the rule even if they had no intention of killing someone.”

Andrews said Underwood’s plea agreement required him to testify against his co-defendant, Calvin Shelton, 35, but Underwood later asked that he be allowed to rescind his guilty plea.

Andrews said that because Underwood tried to rescind his plea agreement, prosecutors asked that the part of Underwood’s plea agreement be rescinded. It was the part in which prosecutors would have stood silent regarding Underwood getting judicial release at the appropriate time.

Andrews said Underwood’s request to rescind his plea “as well as other factors,” led the Mahoning County prosecutor to have the charges of Underwood’s co-defendant, Shelton, dismissed in April. “Therefore, I don’t believe (Underwood) has fulfilled his obligation” under the plea agreement and should be voided, Andrews said.

Shelton was released from the Mahoning County jail the day the charges were dismissed. The charges were murder with a firearm specification, involuntary manslaughter with a firearm specification, two counts of burglary with firearm specifications and having weapons while not allowed in Lewis’ death. The charges can be refiled at a later time.

Mark Lavelle, Underwood’s attorney, argued against changing Underwood’s plea agreement, saying Underwood testified before a Mahoning County grand jury in the killing, and Underwood’s testimony was the foundation of Shelton being indicted in the case. Lavelle called Shelton the “shooter in this case.”

Judge Durkin then denied the request to void any part of the plea agreement.

Lavelle later told the judge Underwood admitted he “was involved in an episode, which caused the death of a friend.” Underwood “didn’t pull the trigger. There is no one who even suspects that was the case, nobody in the investigation. But under Ohio law, he is equally guilty with the shooter.”

Lavelle said Underwood was the person who identified the home they would burglarize and “expressed that to the two other men.”

Underwood “picked up Lewis, and they went down to Plum Street, which he knew to be vacant, and knew had, at least through the windows, some property that was worthy of stealing, for the purposes of, of course, buying drugs,” Lavelle said.

He said Underwood parked his truck up the hill. So Underwood, ran up the hill to get his truck so they could load items into it. Underwood went back in the house and started to gather items and heard a gunshot coming from another room.

Underwood did not know who had shot whom, but he “gets the heck out of there” and later learned that Lewis had been killed, Lavelle said. Underwood “never figured out a motive” for Lewis being killed, Lavelle added.

When Andrews was asked after the hearing whether he knows who the shooter was, he said he could not comment.

At the time the charges against Shelton were dismissed, Shelton’s attorney, Aaron Meikle said, he believes the reason prosecutors dismissed the charges was because there was no physical evidence tying Shelton to the murder, such as DNA or fingerprints.

Meikle said he believed the only evidence against Shelton was going to come from Underwood’s testimony — that Underwood and another man picked up Shelton to carry out a burglary. But though Underwood claimed he called and texted Shelton, “there was no evidence of that,” Meikle said. Cell phone locational data related to Underwood also did not confirm another claim Underwood made, Meikle said.

Have an interesting story? Contact Ed Runyan by email at erunyan@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


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