Man sentenced for killing five in Cleveland house after courtroom chaos

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CLEVELAND-- A man accused in the 2014 murders of five people on Cleveland's east side was sentenced on Wednesday.

James Sparks-Henderson, 21, was charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, felonious assault and aggravated robbery.

Sparks-Henderson pleaded guilty during a hearing Wednesday afternoon to killing five people and trying to kill two children. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell handed down five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

While giving his statement, a family member of one of the victims attacked Sparks-Henderson. The man was quickly surrounded by deputies and escorted out of the courtroom, while the suspect was taken away.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office said Sparks-Henderson shot and killed five people inside a house on East 92nd Street near Wade Park on Nov. 21, 2014. No motive was ever given.

The victims were Lemon S. Bryant, 60; Sherita Johnson, 41; Ja’Rio Taylor, 19; and Shaylona Williams, 17. Johnson was seven months pregnant at the time of the shooting. Her 9-year-old daughter was also shot, but survived, and her 2-year-old son was unharmed.

After months of investigating and canvassing, police arrested Sparks-Henderson for the murders in May 2015.

Then-prosecutor Timothy McGinty said Sparks-Henderson showed no remorse and remained at the crime scene following the shooting. He made a meal and went through his victims' pockets, according to McGinty.

Continuing coverage on this story here

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:31 pm

In exchange for his guilty plea, James Sparks-Henderson will not be eligible for the death penalty.

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:37 pm

With the specifications removed from each of counts 1 through 5, Sparks-Henderson cannot be sentenced to death.

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:38 pm

Prosecutors say he also tried to kill a 9-year-old and 2-year-old.

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:39 pm

Probation is not possible for counts 1 through 5. Those are the aggravated murder charges.

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:42 pm

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell is explaining post-release control, which he is required to do by law, even though it is not applicable in this case.

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:48 pm

Sparks-Henderson pleads guilty to counts 1 through 7. Judge O’Donnell accepts those pleas.

Jen Steer May 10, 20171:52 pm

The judge is taking a brief break. Sentencing will begin shortly.

Jen Steer May 10, 20172:21 pm

A family member went after Sparks-Henderson in the middle of his victim impact statement. Deputies escorted the man and the suspect out of the courtroom.

Jen Steer May 10, 20172:21 pm

Judge O’Donnell called for a brief recess. We’ll be back around 2:30 p.m.

Jen Steer May 10, 20172:34 pm

We’re waiting on Judge O’Donnell to resume sentencing.

Jen Steer May 10, 20172:43 pm

We’ve heard from two more victims’ family members.

Jen Steer May 10, 20172:49 pm

Prosecutors read victim impact statements, then another family member interrupts while in tears, asking “Why?”

Jen Steer May 10, 20172:55 pm

When Judge O’Donnell asks for a reason for the murders, prosecutors ask to approach the bench. He declines to do anything off the record. The question goes unanswered.