September 26, 2014
Relatives of Eugene Render told the 19-year-old Canton man who murdered him that the senseless act has forever changed their lives.
They were speaking to Mikal J. Johnson, who was sentenced Wednesday to life without the possibility of parole in the shooting death of the 88-year-old World War II veteran.
Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Taryn Heath also sentenced Johnson to an additional 25 years stemming from two aggravated burglary charges and a firearm specification.
One of the burglaries occurred at a mobile home park on Bender Street NE in Navarre, according to trial testimony.
Render had nothing of value to steal, said Karen Render, the victim’s daughter-in-law. Two TVs at the home were gifts. The veteran didn’t own the house where he lived alone, she said.
“He had nothing to give,” Render said.
Johnson and co-defendant Japheth Thomas, 20, of Canton, forced their way into Render’s home on Nov. 22, according to Stark County prosecutors. It was the second time the duo had broken into his home in the 300 block of Montrose Avenue NW, an area not known for serious crime, according to trial testimony.
The first time, Johnson and Thomas fled after discovering Render was home, prosecutors said.
The second time, Render tried to defend himself with a 9mm pistol, but Johnson shot him twice with a .40-caliber handgun, prosecutors said. The wounds were fatal.
“We begged for him to stay with us,” Karen Render said at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. “He said he was fine.” Eugene Render reinforced one of the doors at his home after the first break-in, she said.
“We can’t believe the audacity of you and your punk buddy,” Render said, directing her comments to Johnson, who did not look at her as she spoke. Johnson didn’t make any statements during the trial or at his sentencing hearing.
Tears welled in Render’s eyes and filled her voice as she spoke. “It has changed our lives forever,” she said, explaining that she has lost trust in strangers.
Eugene Render served on a Navy ship in World War II. He had volunteered to serve in the war at age 17.
Heath imposed the sentences after a three-judge panel — Heath and Judges Kristin Farmer and John Haas — ruled that Johnson would not be sentenced to death on the aggravated murder charge.
The panel recommended the life prison term without parole, and Heath, the presiding judge in the case, imposed it.