Man Found Guilty Of Shooting Friend In Hostage Standoff

MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) - A jury convicted a man Wednesday of aggravated murder for shooting a family friend while holding four people hostage after he became upset about the breakup of his marriage.

Stephen W. Byerly, 53, of Mansfield, was found guilty in Richland County Common Pleas Court of aggravated murder and aggravated murder with prior calculation and design. He will be sentenced on one of the murder charges and could receive the death penalty for either charge.

The jury also convicted him of aggravated burglary, four counts of kidnapping and violation of a temporary protection order.

Police said that in January, Byerly went to a trailer where his estranged wife, Jamie, was staying and shot Robert Hayes, 49.

Byerly's wife got a temporary restraining order against her husband days before the shooting. She and her three children were staying with her son from a previous marriage and his girlfriend, police said.

Byerly forced his way into the home around 3:30 a.m. and shot Hayes, who was a family friend for nine years. Byerly refused to leave the trailer and shot about 20 times at officers.

Byerly eventually let all the hostages go except his three children, ages 10, 8 and 4, who were kept barricaded along with him in a back bedroom.

Byerly surrendered after about six hours of negotiations. No one else was injured.

Defense attorney Terry Hitchman said during the trial that Byerly did not deny shooting Hayes, but did not go to the trailer with the intention of killing him.

Prosecutor Bambi Couch-Page said prior calculation was proven by the testimony of a jailhouse informant who said Byerly told him that he planned to try to catch his wife and Hayes in bed together and "blow them away."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment on the verdict.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)