The Springfield man on trial in the stabbing death of his tenant was convicted on two counts of murder and other felonies Friday night.
The verdict from the Clark County Common Pleas jury, made public at about 8 p.m., also convicted Jason Waller on single counts of tampering with evidence and carrying a concealed weapon.
Waller was accused of using a sword in the April 9 stabbing of Donald Argabright, 26, who was found dead of stab wounds in the driveway of the home he rented from Waller at 154 Kewbury Road.
Sentencing was set for Feb. 12. On the murder charge, the sentence is 15 years to life in prison. The tampering charge brings a sentence of up to three years, while the weapons charge brings a sentence of up to 18 months.
Clark County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Carey said he and the prosecutor’s office were pleased with the outcome of the trial. Defense attorney Jon Paul Rion offered no comment, leaving the courtroom immediately after the hearing ended.
Argabright’s family members expressed their pleasure with the verdicts, but declined comment until after sentencing.
Family members of Waller and Argabright cried as verdicts were read.
Waller didn’t offer much visible reaction. He looked back at his family as he was led out of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies. A family member yelled “I love you,” to Waller. He looked back.
According to the police investigation, Waller stabbed Argabright in the chest with the sword during a fight about rent payments. Waller fled to Tennessee, where he was apprehended and returned to Springfield to stand trial.
Closing arguments were presented Friday morning after four days of testimony. Neither attorney argued that Waller wasn’t the person who fatally stabbed Argabright.
Rion argued that Argabright threatened and taunted Waller, and was holding a rock he intended to use as a weapon when he was stabbed. Testimony by Stacy Young and her son saying Argabright never picked up the rock was meant to downplay that Waller was provoked, Rion said.
“Any of these rocks,” Rion said, gesturing to rocks collected as evidence by police, “if he comes at you and is known to be a violent person and they’re coming at you, it’s going to create emotions that you cannot put into words.”
Springfield police also collected a loaded handgun, which Waller admitted was his, at the crime scene. It’s uncertain when he dropped it in the yard. Rion argued if he’d come to the home intending to kill Argabright, he would have used the gun instead and not brandished a mini-sword.
However, Carey said Waller brought both weapons with the intent to kill. He used the sword because it’s what he had at hand, possibly dropping the gun prior to the fatal confrontation in front of the garage, he said.
“Forget serious provocation, there was no provocation,” Carey said. “How many times did Jason get hit by Donald? Zero.”
“As soon as the defendant got close enough, he thrust that sword into Donald Argabright’s chest. That, ladies and gentlemen, is murder,” Carey noted.