Friday, March 01, 2002

Ringer sentenced to 21 years

Family of woman he shot speaks to him in court

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After 14 months, Cassandra Betts' family and friends had hoped for answers.

        They wanted Tony Ringer to explain why he shot his 25-year-old former girlfriend and left her to die in an idling car with her 7-year-old daughter in the back seat.

        But on Thursday, the 31-year-old barber — who once catered to Bengals and Reds players at his downtown salon — pleaded guilty to two reduced counts of voluntary manslaughter. And he did very little talking.

        Instead, he sat next to his lawyer and listened as Ms. Betts' friends and family spoke before he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

        “You are nothing but a coward,” said Kim Hinkle, Ms. Betts' best friend, as she addressed Mr. Ringer. “You are not a real man. Scum of the earth has more purpose than you do.”

        “We wish you could say why you did it,” added Lois Austin Davis, Ms. Betts' aunt. “Wherever you are, we will pray for you daily that God will repay you for what you have done.”

        “You decided to eliminate the baby,” said Ms. Betts' friend Khrystian Styles, referring to the 6-week fetus that died with Ms. Betts. “You decided to eliminate Cassie. All because you didn't want to be bothered. ... None of us ever understood why she loved you the way she did.”

        Said Barbaranne Irving, Ms. Betts' mother: “I played your confession tape over and over again and kept hearing you say, "I was afraid and I ran. ...' You've run for 14 months and I've been running right behind you.”

        Mr. Ringer had faced two counts of aggravated murder for the Dec. 21, 2000, shooting death of his former girlfriend in Woodlawn. She was pregnant with his child.

        Prosecutors said he killed Ms. Betts because she refused to abort the baby.

        On Wednesday, opposing attorneys worked out a plea that reduced the charges and sent Mr. Ringer to prison.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said Thursday the deal would not have gone forward if Ms. Betts' family had not supported the plea bargain.

        Prosecutors considered a plea, he said, because “you never know with a jury, and in this case there could have been questions with respect to the confession; and given those concerns, it was appropriate to accept the plea.”

        Mr. Ringer had initially argued that his constitutional rights were violated because police questioned him outside the presence of his attorney.

        Police said Mr. Ringer, who told investigators the shooting was accidental, agreed to talk with them.

        Ms. Betts' body was discovered inside her car by workers at a Woodlawn auto-repair shop. Her car had been parked outside the business overnight.

        Her daughter, Justyce, was inside the car when her mother was killed and stayed there with the body until morning. The girl, who was not harmed, sought help from employees of the shop when it opened that morning.

        As deputies walked Mr. Ringer to a holding cell Thursday, he said Ms. Betts' family were not people of faith because they don't forgive him. There was “too much hate” in the courtroom, he said.

        Mr. Ringer's mother, Alyce Ringer, apologized to Ms. Betts' family.

        “Nobody can cast the first stone. I'm going to say sorry anyway, even though they've made it clear they won't accept it,” she said.


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