PDT Staff Writer
A Scioto County grand jury has refused to return an indictment in the case of Tyler Staker, 22, of Portsmouth, who had been involved in the shooting death of Steve Holsinger, 33, of 9550 Old Gallia Pike, Wheelersburg, on July 12, 2012.
Staker, who along with his father, Robert Staker, had gone to Holsinger’s residence to repossess a piece of equipment that was purchased from their business they say had not been fully paid for, reportedly shot Holsinger after a verbal confrontation.
According to the sheriff’s report, Staker and his father had been at the location for over an hour knocking on the door in attempts to get Holsinger to return the equipment. The report goes on to say Holsinger came out onto the porch at approximately 10:20 p.m. with a gun in his hand and very upset.
A witness told detectives that he did put the gun into his pocket for a short time, then got upset and pulled out the gun telling Staker and his father they had three seconds to get off his property. Holsinger then reportedly raised the weapon pointing it at Staker’s face. It was then, according to the report, that Tyler Staker shot the deceased several times.
“The grand jury did not have enough votes to return an indictment,” Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn said. “In Ohio there’s nine members of the grand jury and it takes seven of those members to find an indictment.”
Kuhn said the grand jury heard from eight witnesses, reviewed a large number of photographs taken at the scene the night that it happened and all of the evidence collected by the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office including phone calls and financial records regarding the equipment in question.
“On this case they (grand jury) spent approximately six and a half hours hearing testimony, reviewing records and documents, and deliberating,” Kuhn said. “That is about the longest that a grand jury has spent in the eight years that I have been the prosecutor. It wasn’t a decision they reached lightly. It was one they spent a lot of time on.”
Kuhn said neither side of the confrontation acted in the manner they should have, given the circumstances.
“I certainly wouldn’t view this as an endorsement of how the Stakers acted up there in trying to recover this lawnmower,” Kuhn said. “In the same sense it’s not an endorsement of the way the homeowner came out acting with a gun, sort of escalating that either. Because of that, it’s a case that, as a prosecutor, you would have liked to have something else to show a grand jury one way or the other. It was the kind of case that lent itself to people looking at the facts and having a difficulty making a decision.”
Kuhn said the first people he notified when he saw the outcome of the grand jury were Holsinger’s family members.
“They are really good people and they are having a hard time right now,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn was asked what people should do under similar circumstances to prevent escalation that obviously occurred that night.
“The easy thing for both sides to have done in this case was to call the sheriff,” Kuhn said. “It’s Porter Township. We’ve got township deputies around the clock. The easy thing for either side to have done would have been to call the sheriff. When Steve Holsinger was finally told by a neighbor that they were going to call the sheriff. That’s sort of what prompts him to go out with a gun. That should have been the time to say, ‘yes, get the sheriff here.’ or if those fellows are entitled to their mower, to go and get a court order. It’s not that hard.”
Early controversy in the case occurred when no arrest was made at the scene. However, Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini said his deputies followed protocol and called Kuhn, asking for his advice. He did not advise them to make an arrest at that time.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org