It took only several hours of deliberations on Thursday for a Fulton County jury to find Romauldo Cordoba Jr. guilty of two charges connected with the April 25 slaying of Joshua McJilton.
The 12-member panel convicted Cordoba of involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification and domestic violence in connection with the fatal shooting last spring in a Wauseon parking lot. Judge James E. Barber confirmed the verdict with each member of the jury.
The domestic violence conviction stemmed from an incident just prior to the shooting. Cordoba used his vehicle to prevent a Buick Enclave driven by his wife Melinda from exiting a parking space, then banged on the Enclave’s driver side window with the .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol he would use almost immediately afterward to shoot McJilton.
Cordoba family members and supporters in the courtroom sobbed loudly and embraced following the verdict. Cordoba stood silently alongside defense attorney Chris Dreyer with his head bowed. He looked briefly at his family and supporters, which included his wife Melinda, before being escorted from the courtroom by a Fulton County Sheriff’s deputy.
In his closing statements following the 3 1/2 day trial, Fulton County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Kennedy had informed the jurors they had two lesser choices if they could not find Cordoba guilty of murder – involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide, in that order. He told them a guilty verdict of murder should only be decided if the jurors could determine without a reasonable doubt that Corboda had planned with forethought to kill McJilton.
Sentencing will be scheduled following a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) and report by the county’s Adult Probation Department. A spokesperson for the county prosecutor’s office said a PSI–a comprehensive report on a convicted defendant’s background which serves as a guide to the judge in determining a sentence–typically takes up to six weeks to complete.
No sentencing date for Cordoba has been scheduled. He could face 14 years in prison.
Neither Assistant Prosecutor Paul Kennedy, defense attorney Chris Dreyer nor Alana Venia, Joshua McJilton’s mother, would comment following the verdict.
During closing arguments defense attorney Chris Dreyer said McJilton’s shooting was a case of self defense gone horribly awry.
But Fulton County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Kennedy advised the jury members to keep sight of a security video that he said told the real story.
Cordoba was accused of shooting McJilton, 27, early April 25 in a Wauseon parking lot after McJilton approached him to try to quell Cordoba’s confrontation with his estranged wife. The victim suffered gunshot wounds to the upper thigh and right chest. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward at Fulton County Health Center.
After searching several locations in Defiance and in Fulton County, fearing she was involved in an extramarital relationship, Cordoba discovered his wife was at DB Downtown Billiards in Wauseon. He waited in his vehicle until she exit the billiards hall, then blocked her Enclave in the parking space.
A succession of McJilton’s friends who were present at the shooting testified that Cordoba fired a warning shot in the air as McJilton approached him, then fired several more shots, two of which hit McJilton.
Cordoba claimed self-defense in the shooting, saying McJilton, who stood taller and heavier than Cordoba, approached aggressively and ignored warning shots to back off.
“The tape you saw tells the truth,” Kennedy said, referencing a security videotape from DB Downtown Billiards that captured the incident.
He said Cordoba was only an arm’s length from McJilton when he deliberately fired the handgun. “This was a purposeful pulling of the trigger in the direction of Mr. McJilton’s body. That shows you that it was his specific intent to do it,” he told the jurors. “His purpose was to kill Josh McJilton.”
Kennedy dismissed the defense’s assertion that McJilton instigated the situation that led to his death. He described Cordoba’s actions at the public scene, including blocking his wife’s vehicle, pounding on the window, shouting at her, and firing a warning shot.
“He knows he’s creating a scene; he knows there are people that see this. He knows that maybe somebody’s going to come to his wife’s aid. He’s created the situation that ultimately led to the death of Joshua McJilton,” he said.
Cordoba’s body language as seen on the videotape contradicts his claim of being fearful of McJilton, Kennedy said. He said rather than walk away from McJilton, Cordoba is shown bobbing his head and angrily holding his ground.
“That tells you he was mad, and he was yelling at Josh,” the prosecutor said. “Are those the actions of someone who is cowering in fear because he’s being towered over by this big man? No. This is a man who’s pissed off. How dare Joshua interfere in his argument with his wife.”
Kennedy said Cordoba had two months between the shooting and his extradition from Texas to formulate a story of self-defense.
Dreyer discussed the information provided by the friends accompanying McJilton when the shooting occurred. Calling them “The Fabulous Four,” he said their stories didn’t add up, and noted their reluctance to cooperate in the ensuing investigation.
He also criticized Wauseon Detective Kevin Chittenden’s technique during a nearly two-hour interview of Cordoba when the defendant was returned to the city. Dreyer argued that Chittenden asked only about four questions during the process and allowed Cordoba to ramble, when he could have asked Cordoba more pertinent questions.
He said Corboda expressed remorse over the shooting, and said his client was scared of McJilton’s approach.
“He’s got this much bigger man coming at him. He fires a warning shot,” Dreyer said.
He said Cordoba gave McJilton ample warning and time to quit advancing on him before he fired the gun. He said all of the shots fired by Cordoba were aimed downward, not in a manner attempting to harm someone. He said that indicated Cordoba’s desire to retreat.
“He wants to get out. He wants to go. He was prompted by a much larger, intoxicated individual,” Dreyer said. He said Cordoba was frightened of the threat, and it was not his intent to kill McJilton.
The attorney told the jury the issue of McJilton’s intoxication from alcohol and cocaine “is relevant. It’s relevant.” He suggested that the drugs and alcohol could have caused the victim to exhibit aggressive behavior toward Cordoba.
In his redirect, Kennedy contradicted Dreyer, saying Cordoba did fire intentionally at McJilton’s body. He said throughout the incident Cordoba always had the opportunity to walk away.
“He had an opportunity to retreat, and he did not do so,” Kennedy said. “(McJilton) was simply a man who saw a woman in distress and was trying to defuse the situation. He just thought he’d help the woman out. And he paid for that decision with his life.”