Eric Long

Victims: Keith Cobb and Scott Neblett, 25

Accomplices: Fonta Whipple, 26, & Jashawn Clark, 25,

Age at time of murders: 17

Crime date: March 18, 2009

Crime location: Sharonville, Ohio

Crimes: Double murder

Weapon: Firearm

Murder method: Gunshots

Convictions: Felonious assault, discharging a firearm near habitation/school, aggravated murder, weapon under disability, carrying a concealed weapon, & assault

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) plus 19 years

Incarceration status: Lebanon Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo

Summary of the crime

Whipple, Clark and Long got into an argument with Keith Cobb and Scott Neblett at Garage Bar & Grill in Sharonville, OH. They followed the victims and, as they were driving on I-75, emptied their guns into Cobb and Neblett’s car, causing it to veer off the highway and roll over. The victims died of gunshot wounds.

Details

STATE v. LONG

I. Case Background

{¶ 2} Appellant, Eric Long, and his two codefendants were charged in a 13–count indictment with several offenses stemming from two separate shootings in March 2009. When the offenses were committed, Long was 17 years old. According to public information from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, codefendant Fonta Whipple was 26 years old, and codefendant Jashawn Clark was 25. http://www.drc.state.oh.us/OffenderSearch/Search.aspx.

{¶ 3} Following a joint jury trial, all three codefendants were found guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, three counts of felonious assault, two counts of having weapons while under disability, one count of improperly discharging firearm into a habitation, and various firearm specifications. Long was also convicted of one count of carrying concealed weapons. At a joint sentencing hearing with his two codefendants, Long was sentenced to consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole on the aggravated murder counts and an additional 19 years on the remaining counts and specifications, also consecutive.

{¶ 4} Long appealed to the First District Court of Appeals. Among the various assignments of error, he challenged his consecutive sentences of life imprisonment without parole. Long argued that the trial court had failed to consider the factors set forth in R.C. 2929.12(A), (B), (C), (D), and (E) and the principles and purposes of sentencing. Specifically, he contended that the trial court had failed to consider his youth as a mitigating factor on the record and that a life term on a teenager amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

{¶ 5} In rejecting Long’s assignment of error based on the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the First District noted that the United States Supreme Court had recently held that a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for juvenile offenders is cruel and unusual punishment in Miller v. Alabama, ––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407. The court of appeals distinguished Miller on grounds that the sentence imposed by the trial court was not mandatory. R.C. 2929.03(A) allows the trial court to exercise its discretion when sentencing for aggravated murder by imposing life imprisonment without parole or with parole eligibility after 20, 25, or 30 years.

{¶ 6} The appellate court further determined that the trial court “was able to consider whether Long’s ‘youth and its attendant characteristics, along with the nature of his crime, made a lesser sentence (for example, life with the possibility of parole) more appropriate.’ Miller at [2460].” 2012–Ohio–3052, ¶ 52. The court of appeals then detailed how it believed the record reflected that the trial did consider Long’s youth and its attendant characteristics. Id. at ¶ 53–54.

{¶ 7} We accepted Long’s discretionary appeal on reconsideration. 133 Ohio St.3d 1502, 2012–Ohio–5693, 979 N.E.2d 348. The sole proposition of law before this court is that “[t]he Eighth Amendment requires trial courts to consider youth as a mitigating factor when sentencing a child to life without parole for a homicide.” In adopting this proposition, we further hold that the record must reflect that the court specifically considered the juvenile offender’s youth as a mitigating factor at sentencing when a prison term of life without parole is imposed.

Ohio Supreme Court: Reconsider juvenile murder sentence

COLUMBUS – A Hamilton County court must reconsider the life-without-parole sentence of Springdale’s Eric Long, convicted of murdering two men in 2009, when he was 17.

In a 24-page decision, the Ohio Supreme Court found that when juveniles are convicted of murder and the potential sentence is life in prison without the possibility of parole, judges must consider the juvenile’s age as a factor in that sentencing.

The Ohio Supreme Court sent the case back in a 5-2 ruling handed down Wednesday. Republican justices Sharon Kennedy and Terrence O’Donnell dissented.

Long received the sentence in 2011 for his role in killing Keith Cobb and Scott Neblett after a bar fight and running gun battle on Interstate 75. Co-defendants Fonta Whipple and Jashawn Clark, both adults at the time, are each serving two life terms without the possibility of parole.

Whipple, Clark and Long got into an argument with Cobb and Neblett on March 18, 2009, at Garage Bar & Grill in Sharonville.

The trio got into a car and followed Neblett and Cobb when the pair left the bar.

As both cars were going south on Interstate 75 at 2:45 a.m. in Evendale, Whipple, Clark and Long emptied their guns into the other car, causing it to veer off the highway and roll over. Cobb and Neblett were killed. I-75 was shut down for hours as police investigated the crime scene.

Two years later, the three convicted killers were blasted for their lack of remorse. At their sentencing, Whipple and Clark stuck their tongues out at a news camera.

Long was tried as an adult for the murders. He’d had 35 previous criminal cases in juvenile court.

His attorney, though, argued that Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ethna Cooper didn’t consider Long’s age as a factor in his favor at the time she sentenced him. Prosecutors countered that Long was three months shy of his 18th birthday and had such a long criminal record as a juvenile that his age shouldn’t be considered a factor at his sentencing.

UPDATE: Teen arrested for deadly highway shooting

EVENDALE, OH (FOX19) – Evendale Police and the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force have arrested a 17-year-old juvenile they say killed two people during a rolling gun battle on I-75 in March.

The suspect’s name is not being released because of his age.

PREVIOUSLY:

Police are looking for a teenager who they say killed two people in a deadly shooting on Interstate 75 in March.

Investigators are searching for a 17-year-old boy. Police have not released his name at the time, but say he is involved in a deaths of two men who were killed on I-75.

On March 18, police responded to a crash on the highway when they found Keith Cobb and Scott Neblett Jr. dead at the scene. They both were 25 and died from gunshot wounds.

FOX19 will continue to update this story as new information is made available.

PREVIOUSLY:

EVENDALE, OH (FOX19) – Police are continuing to investigate a rolling gun battle that took place Wednesday morning on Interstate 75.

Two people died and the interstate was shut down for over eight hours.

Police responded to a report of a crash around 2:45 a.m. When they arrived, they found two people dead in a vehicle. They have been identified as Keith Cobb, 25, and Scott Neblett Jr., also 25.

Police say the vehicle had flipped at least two times. The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office has ruled that the victims died of gunshot wounds, not the crash.

Police believe it all started as a fight at a bar in Sharonville and then moved to a rolling gun battle. Police say there is evidence an assault rifle was used, and that the victims were armed as well, but it’s unclear if they fired any shots.

The suspect’s car, which is believed to be a silver Dodge Caliber, was found Wednesday evening and taken to a garage at the Evendale Police Department.

Police may release more information on Thursday.