CANTON The man who fatally shot Canton police dog Jethro has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Kelontre D. Barefield, 23, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to charges related to Jethro's death and several other counts stemming from four earlier burglaries and an unrelated aggravated robbery.
Stark County Common Pleas Judge Kristin G. Farmer called Barefield's actions "intolerable" and said they violated "the safety and security of this county and the people sworn to protect it" as she sentenced him to a combined 45-year prison term that covers both pending cases.
In January, Barefield broke into the Fishers Foods on Harrison Avenue SW, shot Jethro three times and exchanged gunfire with two officers, during which he was shot in the ankle. The police dog died the following day.
It initially appeared the plea deal might not go through, as Barefield on Wednesday told Farmer he was dissatisfied with his legal representation while confirming that he'd signed the plea agreement.
He said he felt his attorneys were there for a paycheck and that he had asked for multiple things that hadn't been provided to him.
The courtroom was cleared, and after Barefield spoke privately with his attorneys — who are public defenders — the hearing resumed.
The case had been headed for a trial, though defense attorneys had said finding an impartial jury would pose a challenge because of extensive media coverage of Jethro's shooting and requested the trial be moved out of county.
The crime sparked national outrage, and police from as far away as New York and Maryland came to Canton to attend Jethro's funeral. The dog's death also led state lawmakers to introduce a bill that would make the penalty for killing a police K9 harsher.
Farmer, as she sentenced Barefield on Wednesday, noted the six years he will serve for shooting Jethro and the firearm charge is the maximum allowed by the state. She also said while some people might see a 45-year prison sentence as "too harsh," it reflects not only the seriousness of Jethro's death and the fact that he shot at two officers but also the "terror" inflicted on victims of the burglaries and aggravated robbery.
None of the victims from either case spoke in court Wednesday. Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Fred Scott said all fully supported the prison sentence.
As part of the agreement, Barefield on Wednesday also pleaded guilty to four charges of burglary and to one charge of aggravated robbery with a firearm specification, unrelated to the incident at Fishers Foods.
Barefield last year burglarized homes in Plain and Canton townships while occupants were sleeping, stealing credit cards, cash, medications and phones, according to court records. And in January — a few days before shooting at Jethro and two police officers — he robbed an employee of BJ's Wholesale Club at gunpoint as she sat in her car waiting to go into work.
He was sentenced to 11 years total for those crimes and 34 years for the Fishers Foods break-in.
Stark County Prosecutor John D. Ferrero, who took the unusual step of sitting in with prosecutors during Wednesday's hearing, said his office was satisfied with the 45-year sentence and that avoiding a trial means keeping victims from what could be a traumatic experience.
"We feel we got a very dangerous criminal off the streets," he said.