Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker said it’s disheartening when he learns about women who have protection from abuse orders riding to court with the men whom are not allowed to have contact with them, or that the couples still live together.
“It’s like an addiction,” he said. “They just can’t let this go, no matter how bad he treats her.”
Acker gets involved when the domestic violence escalates, and the case of Ezra E. Daye allegedly shooting to death Kelli Johnston of Masury is only one tragic story of many. In the last year and a half, Acker said, Mercer County has dealt with six cases in which women were killed by their partners.
“It’s a major, major, major problem,” Acker said.
Daye, 21, of Sharon, formerly of Masury, pleaded no contest Oct. 26 to a charge of third-degree murder.
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Tedd C. Nesbit approved a plea agreement, which included a
sentence of 15 to 35 years in state prison.
At the hearing, Daye apologized to Kelli Johnston’s family, his own family, and thanked family members
who have been caring for his and Johnston’s two children, said Daye’s attorney, David E. Wenger said. He
also hoped that God would help Johnston’s family members find comfort, Wenger said.
The shooting took place Aug. 8, 2020, at Daye’s apartment on Sherman Avenue, Sharon police said. Johnston, 23, was still alive but was unresponsive and had a faint pulse when they arrived, police said. Daye was not present when police arrived, and they found live .38-caliber rounds, drug items including marijuana and rolled bills with suspected drug residue on them, and items belonging to Johnston in the apartment, police said.
Acker said the plea, which was approved by Johnston’s family, was a good outcome considering no one
witnessed the shooting, no one saw Daye at the apartment at the time, the gun was not recovered and
police did not recover gunshot residue from Daye when he turned himself in about six hours after the
shooting on warrants from Mercer and Trumbull county courts and Brookfield police.
When Daye turned himself in, he smelled heavily of chlorine, said Acker, who was at the Sharon police station at the time. Daye appeared to have used bleach in an attempt to remove any evidence from his person that would connect him to the shooting, Acker said.
The plea means that Daye will be eligible for parole in 15 years. However, Acker said, the parole board wants to know that a subject coming before them has accepted responsibility for the crime, something Daye did not do by entering a plea of no contest.
“I would think he’ll serve close to all of it,” Acker said, adding that the district attorney’s office will be
able to state a position at Daye’s parole hearing.
One of the many tragedies in this case is that the head wound Johnston suffered was “clearly survivable,”
Acker said. She had moved in the apartment after being shot and, if help had been called sooner, “she
may well have survived this wound,” he said.
One of the warrants outstanding against Daye at the time of Johnston’s death had been obtained by
Brookfield police. They had filed weapons and other charges based on a traffic stop Oct. 14, 2019, on
Addison Road, Masury, when police found a loaded .22-caliber handgun in the car. Daye, who was a
passenger, ran from police into woods.
Daye had been the subject of a domestic violence prosecution in which he allegedly beat Johnston on
April 10, 2019, at her apartment in Masury. Johnston consented to Daye pleading guilty to a lesser charge
of disorderly conduct