Gunman pleads to lesser charge in Warren man’s slaying

WARREN – One of two men charged in the Nov. 11, 2012, shooting death of Marco Dukes, 32, of Warren, pleaded guilty Thursday to reduced charges.

Dale Hatch will be sentenced sometime in April and officials have said they expect him to receive 10 years in prison.

Hatch, 27, of Detroit, pleaded guilty before Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to involuntary manslaughter with a firearms specification, tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property, attempted murder with a firearms specification and felonious assault, also with a firearms specification.

He was originally charged with aggravated murder.

He and Derrick Peete, 23, also of Detroit, were both charged in the Dukes’ murder during what police said was a major gun battle involving the illegal drug trade in downtown Warren.

Two of the charges, felonious assault and attempted aggravated murder, are related to the shooting of Dukes’ cousin, Larry A. Smith, 29, who was wounded in the gunfire.

The shooting touched off vigils and community meetings over recent violence in the city.

Assistant county prosecutor Chris Becker said Thursday that Hatch was offered the plea deal in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution and testifying against Peete at his trial scheduled for March 24 before Judge Ronald Rice.

Peete is still facing aggravated murder and other charges that could result in a life sentence.

Becker explained that Hatch was carrying a stolen 9 mm pistol that jammed after he got one shot off. Peete is accused of using an assault rifle that caused most of the damage, killing Dukes, injuring Smith and penetrating a house on Elm Road N.E. that has since been demolished.

Becker said police and prosecutors are unable to prove with ballistics evidence whether the one shot that Hatch fired hit Dukes or Smith.

Prosecutors say Hatch and Peete ran from the scene in a northwest direction, at one point disturbing congregation members of a local Greek Orthodox. One church member even delayed Hatch, who was eventually caught by police after throwing the pistol under a porch near Cross Radio on Vine Avenue N.E.

Statements that Hatch gave to Warren police detectives were allowed to remain as evidence in the case after unsuccessful attempts to suppress them by defense attorney John Juhasz.

Hatch underwent tests for competency and sanity before McKay judged him competent to stand trial.

Meanwhile, Peete was sentenced to 17 months in prison Tuesday by another judge who ordered that the time run concurrent with a 46 month sentence in federal court. Both those sentences were for drug offenses. In addition, Peete was ordered to forfeit more than $10,000 found on him during the traffic stop in Warren where drugs were found on him.

The stop occurred shortly before the murder of Dukes and Peete was arrested by authorities in another county while the assault rifle police say was used in the shooting was confiscated by troopers who stopped a car with a third man in the vehicle.