Jonathan C. McGowan was sentenced on three counts of attempted murder and other felony charges stemming from gunshots fired at a vehicle on Interstate 77.

CANTON  A man was sentenced Monday to 52 years in prison for shooting at a U-Haul truck carrying his wife, child and a relative as they tried to leave the state via Interstate 77.

Jonathan C. McGowan, 35, of Akron, was convicted last week in Stark County Common Pleas Court following a jury trial.

Judge Frank Forchione could have sentenced McGowan to as many as 80 years, said Michael Bickis, assistant Stark County prosecutor.

In addition to the attempted attempted murder charges, McGowan also was convicted of three counts of felonious assault; two counts of felony domestic violence; and single counts of discharge of a firearm on or near a prohibited premises; improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle; and a misdemeanor charge of endangering children.

Multiple repeat violent offender specifications and firearm specifications were attached to some of the charges. The 52-year prison term includes 10 years for a repeat violent offender specification, which is based on a prior felony burglary conviction.

Multiple gunshots

McGowan was inside another vehicle and fired at the U-Haul about 6 a.m. Jan. 14, according to the Stark County Prosecutor's Office. None of those inside the U-Haul were struck by a bullet. Broken glass cut two of the people, according to the prosecutor's office.

One of the bullets hit the driver's side window, according to evidence presented at trial. Two bullets penetrated the passenger compartment of the vehicle, including one that pierced a headrest, Bickis said. The shots were fired "pretty much under the Hall of Fame Bridge" on I-77 between the Everhard Road and Portage Street NW exits.

McGowan was upset because his wife and child were leaving the state, Bickis said following the hearing.

No other vehicles were struck with gunfire, according to the prosecutor's office. McGowan was in a separate vehicle with Angela R. Briere, 24, a co-defendant in the case. Briere, who previously had pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and obstructing justice, testified for the prosecution. She has not been sentenced.

McGowan and Briere had been dating at the time of the incident, the assistant prosecutor said. There was no evidence Briere, of Akron, was aware that McGowan was going to shoot at the U-Haul vehicle, said Bickis, who handled the case with fellow Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Day.

McGowan maintains his innocence.

At Monday's hearing, Forchione said he based the prison term on the seriousness of the crime; McGowan's prior criminal record, including multiple prior domestic violence convictions and several probation violations; the impact of the crimes on the victims; and protecting the public from future crimes.

"I haven't seen an ounce of remorse (from McGowan) in this case," Forchione said. "... Let's face it, you intended to kill (your wife)."

Courtroom testimony

McGowan's wife did not testify at the trial; she could not be reached and did not cooperate with the prosecutor's office, Bickis said following Monday's hearing. The spouse denied that McGowan fired at the vehicle, Bickis said.

McGowan's relative who was inside the U-Haul vehicle testified for the prosecution. None of the three people inside the vehicle could identify the person who opened fire, Bickis said.

The defendant did not testify. Against the advice of his attorneys with the Stark County Public Defender's Office, McGowan addressed the court prior to his sentencing. He said he wouldn't hurt his wife or son.

"My (child) means the world to me and to my wife," McGowan said. "I never whupped my (child). I never even punished (them)."

The prosecution's case

Key prosecution evidence included recorded phone calls between McGowan and Briere, Bickis said. McGowan made incriminating statements in the phone calls recorded while he was in the Stark County Jail, the assistant prosecutor said.

Investigators with the Ohio State Highway Patrol also found a bullet lodged in the U-Haul vehicle and matched it to a firearm found at a home of a McGowan relative. The bullet only could have been fired from that specific gun, Bickis said, citing expert testimony.

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