A Brown County man is now facing the possibility of life in prison after more than three years of investigation and court proceedings.
42-year-old John Michael Dean of Mt Sterling was found guilty of murder in the first degree this morning in Brown County Court in the shooting death of 44-year-old Rebecca Niewhoner.
The jury reached the verdict and returned to the courtroom at 11:30 this morning, nearly 24 hours after closing arguments were heard.
Dean was the primary suspect in shooting Niewhoner to death with a .45 caliber handgun on June 14th, 2019 in the 400 block of East Chestnutt Street in Mt. Sterling. Dean was found in the home with Niewhoner’s body with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face.
Brown County State’s Attorney Michael Hill says he was pleased with the jury’s decision this morning.
“It’s never an easy thing when you have to convict someone of a crime of this magnitude, but it’s the correct verdict and the correct outcome. I’m happy for the family of Rebbecca Niewohner, they’ve got some justice and maybe some closure.
I know it will never bring her back to them but maybe this will give them some peace and a way to cope with this.
I do appreciate the jury and their service. That was not an easy thing to do first of all to render that decision, second to put over a week and a half of their own lives on hold while they take care of this problem. But the jury system in this country is extremely important and I was just honored to be a part of it.”
Hill says he appreciates the time the jury took to come to what he feels is the correct verdict in the case.
“Obviously from the prosecution side or the defense side you want the jury to go out and come back as quickly as possible with a verdict that favors your side so that you don’t have to sit around and wait. But no, the length of time that the jury deliberated, it took them however long it took them to carefully analyze the evidence that was presented to them and come up with a verdict. So you know everyone was anxious and waiting, but I think it was an appropriate amount of time. I don’t think it was too long or too short.”
Brown County Circuit Judge Charles H.W. Burch scheduled Sentencing for John Michael Dean at 9:30 am on February 17th, with a date set aside in January for any post-trial motions from the defense.
The first-degree murder conviction comes with a minimum sentence of 45 years with a maximum sentence of life in prison.