Gunman gets 22 years to life in East Side death

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An East Side man whose previous trial ended in a hung jury was found guilty of murder Thursday and sentenced to 22 years to life in prison.

Juan Stewart, 33, was charged with the January 2015 homicide of Edward Williams, another East Side resident.

The jury in his first trial in May 2018 was hung on the murder charges, which led to this week’s re-trial that started Monday. Stewart was, however, convicted in his first trial of having a weapon under disability, for which Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott sentenced him to five years.

Three of the 22 years of Stewart’s sentence is from that earlier trial.

On Jan. 20, 2015, Columbus police responded to a call from a COTA bus driver who said he and his passengers heard gunshots at the intersection of 2nd Street and St. Clair Avenue, as well as more gunshots down St. Clair.

A truck was parked behind a car on St. Clair, and both vehicles had their lights on, according to witnesses. The bus driver told police he saw the car pull away and a man walk away from the truck and toward some houses opposite the truck.

The responding officers found Williams slumped over in the truck with a bullet wound in his chest. Bullet casings were later found next to Williams’ truck and a nearby sidewalk, indicating the shooter moved closer to Williams after the first two shots, according to police.

Damon Fluellen, who lived in a house across from the truck and was later revealed to be a close friend and mentor to Stewart, engaged the police in conversation multiple times, which they later said was “suspicious.”

Police later found the gun used in the shooting behind the house across from the truck, as well as a flat-billed Chicago Bulls hat in an adjacent yard. Both the gun and the hat had Stewart’s DNA on them. Stewart was arrested in connection with the murder in June 2015 and has been in jail ever since.

Stewart’s defense attorney, Gregg Slemmer, said the evidence against his client was circumstantial. He added that the only inference the jury could make about the DNA matches was that Stewart had touched the gun and the hat at some point, but that’s it.

In his closing argument, Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Meyer told the jury that direct and circumstantial evidence have equal weight. 

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