Saturday, December 23, 2000

Slain woman had feared suspect

Popular salon owner charged in killing

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cassandra Betts told authorities two months ago she was afraid her former boyfriend would “cause severe harm to myself and possibly my daughter.“

        Friday, her ex-boyfriend, Tony Ringer, was charged with aggravated murder after Ms. Betts was shot while sitting in the front seat of her car. Her 7-year-old daughter was sleeping in back.

        Friends of the former couple said it was incomprehensible. They had ended their tumultuous relationship, friends said, and were leading separate lives.

        Ms. Betts, 25, was pregnant and thriving at an advertising-sales job where everyone liked and respected her.

        Mr. Ringer, 30, was to be married today. And Wednesday, he should have been celebrating a victory in a years-long fight with Cincinnati City Hall to get money for his downtown business — a barber shop frequented by wealthy clients, including Bengals and Reds players.

        Instead, police say, Mr. Ringer shot the Fairfield woman sometime late Wednesday or Thursday morning in the parking lot of a Woodlawn auto-repair shop.

        Instead of marrying today, he likely will be in jail on a $500,000 cash bond. And he could face an additional charge in the death of Ms. Betts' unborn child.

        “This is unthinkable,” said Bernard Craig, a barber who works in Mr. Ringer's Elm Street shop, Positive Image Barber Salon. “He's a good, warm-hearted person. As for the thing they say he's done, we'll just have to see. It's taken everybody by surprise.”

        At Empower MediaMarketing, where Ms. Betts' desk is just the way she left it Wednesday afternoon, Christmas good cheer has been replaced with solemn prayer.

        Several employees took Friday off to be alone with their grief; others prepared gifts of food for Ms. Betts' family.

        “The entire company is absolutely in shock,” said Brian McHale, Empower president. “She was energetic and outgoing. She was very smart. You just knew when she came into a room.”

        Friends described Ms. Betts as a warm, caring woman who doted on her daughter. They say she never seemed down and was always smiling. They didn't know anything about her on-again, off-again relationship with Mr. Ringer.

        They also didn't know she had obtained a restraining order against Mr. Ringer in October and then dropped it. They didn't know he had once accused her of domestic violence and bailed her out on a domestic violence charge in 1998 that was later dismissed.

        “Mr. Ringer caused physical harm to myself by throwing me over a banister, down concrete steps and repeatedly kicking me over and over again,” she wrote in an Oct. 10 request for a protection order.

        She said Mr. Ringer, as he had following past breakups, had continued to call her and show up at her workplace and her home after they had ended their relationship.

        Ms. Betts dismissed the protection order two weeks later.

        Mr. Ringer's lawyer, Clyde Bennett, said he did not know what kind of relationship, if any, his client had with Ms. Betts. But he said Mr. Ringer did not kill her.

        “He's a hard-working, honorable, Christian young man,” Mr. Bennett said.

        He said Mr. Ringer, who has no criminal record, is a youth mentor and leader at Lincoln Heights Baptist Church.

        “I don't think there's a lot of physical evidence linking him to the crime,” Mr. Bennett said.

        Mr. Bennett also complained that Hamilton County sheriff's investigators had violated Mr. Ringer's constitutional rights by denying him access to an attorney as he was being questioned.

        Sheriff's spokesman Steve Barnett declined to comment.

        Prosecutors asked Friday for a cash bail because they thought there was a “potential for harm” to Mr. Ringer if he was released. They also said the weapon used in the homicide may still be accessible, meaning police had not found the gun used to kill Ms. Betts.

        According to Hamilton County records, Mr. Ringer was to be married today to Tikisha Davidson, a Dayton woman who could not be reached for comment.

        Mr. Craig described his boss as a tireless worker who fought to make his business a success.

        His most recent fight, a long one, was against the city, which owns the building in which Positive Image is located.

        After nearly three years of negotiations, council voted Wednesday to give Mr. Ringer and two other business owners at Convention Place Mall $405,000 to settle complaints the owners had with the mall's property manager.

        “This just doesn't make sense,“ Mr. Craig said. “That's exactly it. To know Tony, you have to know, he speaks for himself.”

       Reporter Dan Horn contributed to this story.


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