March 4 sentencing date set
"You understand that by pleading guilty you are saying, 'I committed these crimes, I waive any defenses and I take responsibility for these crimes." - Judge David Fuhry
A Newbury Township woman elected Thursday to plead guilty to her role in the murder of Randy Scheffield in 2011 rather than go to trial and face the possibility of life in prison.
Gina Battaglia, 32, was scheduled to go trial Jan. 12 on eight charges, including conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
Instead, she told Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fuhry she wished to plead guilty to tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice, felonies punishable by at least nine months and up to 36 months in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Driscoll told Fuhry prosecutors had discussed Battaglia’s plea deal with Randy Sheffield’s sister, who was present in the courtroom, and she accepted the plea as well.
Battaglia is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4. At sentencing, Driscoll said the state of Ohio would dismiss the remaining charges against Battaglia.
“You understand that by pleading guilty you are saying, ‘I committed these crimes, I waive any defenses and I take responsibility for these crimes,” Fuhry asked Battaglia.
“Yes, your honor,” Battaglia answered.
“You then want to plead guilty to Count Five, the tampering with evidence, and the amended Count Six, obstruction of justice, both third-degree felonies, Ms. Battaglia?” Fuhry asked.
“Yes, your honor,” she muttered.
“And you admit that you committed the acts that constitute those offenses?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Then I’ll accept the plea of guilty, make a finding of guilty based upon the plea and convict subject to a sentencing procedure of the two counts pled to,” Fuhry said, before agreeing to continue Battaglia’s bond.
Fuhry confirmed Battaglia’s decision to plead guilty was a voluntary act and that she understood any prison time could be stacked such that she could face up to six years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Defense attorney David Grant also informed Fuhry that Battaglia understood the terms of the deal and possible consequences.
Battaglia’s change of plea came just over a week after Fuhry ruled on Dec. 29, 2015, that prosecutors would be allowed to present evidence at trial that Battaglia conspired with Doretta Scheffield to kill her husband.
It also came two days after Grant had asked Fuhry on Jan. 5 to transfer the case to neighboring Cuyahoga County because of the Geauga County Maple Leaf’s pre-trial coverage.
Randy, who owned Scheffield Lawns, a Newbury Township landscaping business, was found unconscious in his bed on Dec. 27, 2011. It was later discovered he had been shot in the back of the head by a small caliber gun. He was 53 at the time.
Doretta, 65, Battaglia and David T. “Tig” Rowles, 34, were all arrested March 26, 2015, and charged in connection with Randy’s murder. Rowles is Doretta’s son and the boyfriend of Battaglia and father of her child.
In November 2015, a Geauga County jury convicted Doretta of aggravated murder, murder and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
On Dec. 29, prosecutors dismissed all charges against Rowles because they did not believe they could prove the allegations against Rowles beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, prosecutors elected to focus their efforts on Battaglia.
Battaglia also now faces sentencing in an unrelated drug case.
In May 2015, she was indicted on charges of aggravated possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony, and possessing drug abuse instruments, a second-degree misdemeanor. She pleaded no contest to the felony charge in November as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors agreed to recommend a term of non-residential community control and to “not attempt to utilize evidence obtained in the search” of Battaglia’s home in the Scheffield case.
Geauga County Common Pleas Judge Forrest Burt deferred ruling on her no contest plea pending the outcome of the Scheffield case.
However, as a result of Battaglia’s felony convictions in the Scheffield case, prosecutors said she is no longer eligible for intervention in lieu of conviction when Burt sentences her at a later date.