A Muskingum County jury found Timothy Daniel guilty of aggravated murder for fatally shooting Charles Hooper last October in the South Zanesville Burger King. But before the jury retired to deliberate, Daniel’s plan to make his self-defense tactic credible, and discredit his then-girlfriend Darlene Bender’s testimony, backfired on him.
"That kind of um, really changed my whole game plan there," Daniel said while on the stand.
Daniel’s game plan was to have fake witnesses testify on his behalf and in exchange, pay them with drugs. Instead, Daniel’s only witness outed his plan to paint Hooper as a sugar daddy to the prosecution. Heidi McGilton was arrested Thursday afternoon for trafficking heroin. To have her charges dropped, she agreed to provide the prosecution with letters Daniel sent her from jail.
Muskingum County Prosecutor Mike Haddox asked, "Mr. Daniel wants you to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and that’s what we’re gonna do today? McGilton responded, "Yes." But that’s not what he’s wanted you to do for three months is it? No."
The truth was that Daniel had coached McGilton prior to her testimony and wanted her to lie under oath. The letters Daniel sent her detailed a plan to have McGilton create a Facebook page and take out an ad in the paper to find three potential witnesses that would testify Hooper was the aggressor and not just an innocent bystander.
"Being able to change victim Charlie Hooper into ‘sugar daddy Charlie Hooper’ will change the whole jury’s perspective of what happened," a portion of the letter McGilton read out loud to the courtroom.
Daniel initially claimed self-defense, but when he took the stand, he said the gun "accidentally went off."
During cross-examination Haddox asked Daniel,"Why are you, you, the only person in that store that says anything close to this was an accident, that says anything close that he grabbed you?" Daniel responded with, "You influenced these witnesses and changed these minor sayings to he lunged at me, to he slouched at me. Haddox said, "You’re sick Mr. Daniel."
Along with aggravated murder, Daniel was also found guilty of felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon, and failure to control a firearm. Following the verdict Haddox said, "This is a guy that needs to spend the rest of his life in jail… I guarantee you he would kill again." Daniel could face life in prison without the possibility of parole, a sentence Haddox said he will recommend.