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Burghill man gets 10 to 15 for sex offenses

Competency issues hung over the case

WARREN — A Burghill man received an indefinite 10- to 15-year prison sentence Thursday for being convicted of sex offenses with three teen girls.

The competency of defendant Elijah D. Peters II has been debated throughout the case, and again was brought up during Thursday’s sentencing hearing before Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald J. Rice through statements from Peters’ attorney and several of his relatives.

On July 21, Peters, 20, of 7740 Thompson Sharpsville Road, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, two counts of gross sexual imposition, a count of unlawful sexual contact with a minor and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.

Prosecutors had stated the case involved three girls — ages 12 to 14 at the time — investigated by Weathersfield Township police beginning in January 2021.

Both attorney Michael Partlow and assistant Prosecutor Gabe Wildman had agreed to the indefinite prison term imposed by the judge after Peters had undergone two psychological examinations, which resulted in both experts ruling Peters competent to stand trial.

“The prosecution had shown much grace in reducing the sentence in a case that was originally prosecuted as a potential life (prison) sentence,” Wildman told the judge. “There were three young teen-aged victims involved.”

Rice received written impact statements from the victims prior to Thursday’s hearing.

Partlow said he disputed the reports from the psychologists and plans to file an appeal of the conviction and sentence with the 11th District Court of Appeals.

At the hearing, Rice heard from Peters’ father, Eli, who said his son had medical problems from birth, including having a hole in his heart. He also talked about the son’s delays in his intellectual and emotional growth.

“As a young adult, he has the thought processes of a 14-year-old,” the older Peters stated in asking the judge to show mercy.

A tearful aunt claimed the defendant had been physically abused as a youngster and “doesn’t understand the full repercussions of his actions.”

Peters’ maternal grandmother also talked about Peters having “the mind of a child” and also asked the judge for mercy, sending her grandson to a mental institution because “he would be prey to the predators in prison.”

Rice, who showed concern for the defendant’s mental history by ordering the second evaluation, also labeled Peters a Tier 3 sexual offender which means after his release, he will have to register his address with the sheriff’s office four times per year for the rest of his life.

In September 2021, court records show Peters was evaluated by Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship of University Hospitals’ Cleveland Medical Center. After that report was released, Rice found Peters on Nov. 4, 2021, incompetent to stand trial. After spending time in Heartland Behavioral Center in Massillon, Rice ruled on June 6, 2022, that Peters was competent.

Trumbull County 911 reports state on Jan. 13, 2021, Peters was accused of being in the company of a 12-year-old girl, who was reported to have run away from her great-grandmother’s Weathersfield home. Prosecutors said the rape and gross sexual imposition charges dealt with the then-12-year-old, while the unlawful sexual contact dealt with another girl victim who was 13 at the time.

Wildman said a third girl victim was involved in the disseminating charge linked to Peters sending a nude image of himself over the cellphone.

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