AKRON--The suspect in the murder of a local man outside of a McDonald's restaurant has rejected a plea deal that would have given him the minimum sentence he could face going to trial.
Johnnl Lewis, 21, faces aggravated murder charges for the shooting of John Lehman, 28, in April.
Police say Lehman, who worked at a McDonald's restaurant on West Market Street, was shot while he was taking out the trash.
It is believed he interrupted a robbery attempt when he encountered his killer behind the restaurant.
A police report following Lewis' arrest in April showed that he gave officers a videotaped confession.
On Friday, Lewis appeared in front of Summit County Common Pleas Judge Allison McCarty, having been offered a deal that would have resulted in a sentence of 26 years to life in exchange for a plea of guilty.
It was a deal that relatives of Lehman, including his father, who travelled to Akron from central Ohio, had approved and were expecting Lewis to accept.
Instead, Lewis rejected the offer in court.
McCarty made it clear to Lewis that his rejection of the offer would mean that no further plea deal would ever be extended and when the case goes to trial he could get a longer sentence of 30 years to life or life without parole.
She offered Lewis a second chance to talk in private with his attorneys before accepting his decision, which Lewis accepted.
After more than a half hour behind closed doors, however, Lewis re-emerged in the courtroom and again rejected the offer.
Lehman's father, also named John, called Lewis' decision shocking and selfish.
"It's more than generous due to the fact that he took my son. It was more than a generous offer compared to what he's facing now," said John Lehman Sr.
"The whole family has come from all over the state to witness this and we knew it wasn't a guaranteed thing but we had hoped that he would have taken the deal that the prosecution had offered," added Lehman.
Lehman said when his son was killed he was trying to warn others at the restaurant about the robbery attempt he stumbled into at the back door.
"He was shot at the door at the McDonald's, and he was basically turned around to let his fellow employees and the customers know what was going on; who was on the other side of the door; who was right behind him when he was taken down," said Lehman.
Lehman said although the offer of 26 years to life was acceptable to family members of the victim, he now hopes Lewis gets far more if he is convicted at trial.
"I would like to see the life without parole. I would like to see the maximum. I know it will not replace John, my son, but that's the maximum that they can do; that's what I would like to see," said Lehman.
Relatives of Lewis were also in the courtroom for Friday's expected plea.
The victim's family said they sympathize with them too.
"I think his mother doesn't believe he did it, of course, and my sympathy goes out to her but we were afraid he might change his mind to not guilty and so we'll have to come back for trial," said the victim's grandmother, Mary Lehman.
"I'm sorry that the decision that he made today affects both families and the fact that it will have to go forward with a trial and two families: His family and our family will have to go through that process. It's unfortunate," said the victim's aunt, Liz Murphy.
Lewis' trial is scheduled for later in October.
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