A co-defendant in the murder trial of former Hillsboro resident Tom Burns was sentenced to a mandatory five-year prison term Friday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
Tessa A. Grubb pled guilty in August of 2014 to counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery in exchange for testifying against co-defendant Robert D. Turner, 48.
Turner was found not guilty earlier this month by a Franklin County jury on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary in relation to Burns’ fatal shooting in June of 2014.
On Friday, Grubb was sentenced to five years in prison on both counts, with the sentences to run concurrently. The court said she will also be under five years of post-release control when she is released from prison. She was given 514 days of jail time credit.
Burns, 52 at the time of his death, was a longtime car salesman in Hillsboro who at one time owned Northview Motors. He was robbed at his apartment on the west side of Columbus and shot.
Grubb was one of Burns’ Columbus roommates and said during Turner’s trial that Turner was aware that Burns had inherited more than $17,000 and kept the cash in their apartment. She testified that Turner planned to rob Burns and that she opened a window in the apartment for Turner, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Although she didn’t witness the shooting, she fled the state with Turner shortly after the crime and testified that she overheard him tell his brother that he shot Burns. Investigators found Turner’s fingerprint on the frame of the open window at the apartment, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Grubb told the jury that Turner kidnapped her when she arrived in the apartment parking lot after the shooting. Authorities eventually arrested Grubb in West Virginia and Turner in Pennsylvania. The stolen money and the murder weapon were never recovered, according to the Dispatch.
Burns’ sister, Cindy Seip, was not able to be in court Friday, but prepared a victim impact statement that was read during Friday’s proceedings. It follows, in part:
“… First, my family and I feel that it is very unfortunate that Ms. Grubb is the only one who will pay any price for the crimes committed against my brother. My brother was a father to three young men, a son, a loving brother, and a nephew who had dreams of being a successful car salesman again. Because of Ms. Grubb’s greed over my brother’s recent inheritance, and her desire for drugs, she allowed my brother’s dreams for a better life to be shattered. In her testimony, she admitted her guilt in the wrongs committed against my brother, which lead to his ultimate death. That should make her as guilty as the person who committed the crimes, who unfortunately is a free man today. For that, we’re sorry.
“However, someone needs to pay for my brother’s death. Since we don’t have a second chance to convince a jury of Robert Turner’s guilt, it needs to be Ms. Grubb, and she should be treated as Tom’s killer, and her sentencing should reflect that of a murderer, not just an accomplice.
“She expressed several major character flaws in her testimony, and it’s my hope through her lengthy jail time that she will be able to spend time in God’s Word, learn that she can have a better life, and learn to make a positive influence in the lives of others. I would like her to know that I don’t fully understand how she did what she did, but I do know why she did what she did. Nobody ever taught her that there are two voices we hear – the voice of good, and the voice of evil – and that we have a conscience that helps us make the right choices in life.
“Her lifestyle has severed her conscience, and her time behind bars could prove to be beneficial for her to get her life straight. There must be consequences for her actions. Tom called me frequently as he knew he could count on me to talk with him, encourage him, and pray for him, which I did many times. I’ll never get to have that opportunity again because of her actions, or lack thereof.
“I forgive her, your Honor, and I release her to you and to God, and pray that the Lord draws on her heart while she is in prison.
“Tom had his issues, too, but nobody should have the right to end his life and his dreams. Ms. Grubb not only helped in taking my brother from our family, but she also helped in stealing something that belonged to my late mother (the advance on Tom’s inheritance that was to be used to purchase cars for his new car lot). We know from her testimony that she spent part of Tom’s money on clothes, shoes, and a phone, and no doubt Robert spent some of the money on drugs while they were at his cousin’s house (the “drug house” in West Virginia). I believe she should pay her portion of that money back to my mother’s estate so that Tom’s children can receive some restitution from what she stole from our family.
“I heard the excitement in Tom’s voice when he talked about the future. He had such high hopes of having a successful business again, after living impoverished for so very long, but Ms. Grubb helped to end any dreams Tom had.
“My final thoughts would be that while Ms. Grubb is paying for this crime that she will give herself a chance to learn to appreciate life, get her own life straight and free from her drug addiction, and all of the negative things that go with that awful lifestyle. Her testimony was evidence of a woman who desperately needs a savior. Drugs, sex, deception, killing, stealing, and manipulation won’t give her what she is looking for, but a real relationship with the person of Jesus Christ will.
“May God grant you all wisdom in your decision today.”
The court said in its ruling that after considering Grubb’s present and future ability to pay a fine and financial sanctions, that no fine or court costs would be imposed.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.