CINCINNATI – A former soldier convicted of beating up a homeless man has been arrested on reckless homicide and weapons charges in a woman's fatal shooting in suburban Cincinnati, police said Friday.
Riley Feller, 25, was arrested late Thursday night in Norwood, police Lt. Tom Williams said. Feller was waving a 9mm handgun around when it went off and struck Janice Svajda, 26, of Troy, in the chest at an apartment where Svajda was living with her boyfriend, Williams said.
Police have said that the shooting appeared to be accidental and that alcohol was involved.
The boyfriend, Michael Hesson, was not charged in the shooting but was accused along with Feller and two other men in April of beating John Johnson, a homeless man who had been sleeping under a Cincinnati bridge. Authorities said the men just wanted to beat someone up and hit Johnson, 52, with a baseball bat and a pipe.
Feller, a former soldier from Union, Ky., was based at Fort Knox at the time. He pleaded no contest Aug. 3 to felonious assault and was free pending sentencing.
Army officials say Feller was discharged last year but declined to give a reason.
Feller's attorney, William Rapp, did not immediately return calls for comment. Feller was being held in the Hamilton County jail on Friday.
Ralph Winkler, the Hamilton County Common Pleas judge handling the beating case, said Friday that he had approved Feller's release pending sentencing because he was told Feller cooperated with authorities and had medals from serving in Iraq. He said that the other three were free on bond.
"At the time I thought I was making the right decision," Winkler said.
"My heart goes out to the family of the woman who is deceased," Winkler said. "It's just a tragic case."
Winkler said that he plans to keep Feller in custody until his sentencing regardless of whether he is indicted in the shooting, and that Feller would be held on a high bond.
Prosecutors did not oppose Feller's release because he pleaded no contest and cooperated — waiving extradition and giving police a taped statement, said Julie Wilson, spokeswoman for the county prosecutor's office.
Wilson said authorities typically don't have problems with those awaiting sentencing because they "have every reason to be law-abiding."
Prosecutors were still gathering information on the shooting, Wilson said.
Feller could receive up to eight years in prison in the beating.
Hesson, 25, and former soldiers, Travis Condor and Matthew MacMurtie, are scheduled for a Jan. 20 hearing where a trial date could be set or pleas entered, Winkler said. Their cases have been delayed several times and the court is waiting to sentence Feller until those cases are resolved since he agreed to testify, Winkler said.
Condor, 26, and MacMurtrie, 22, were based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina at the time of the beating. Army officials say they also were discharged last year but would not provide additional information.
Authorities said that the four men had been drinking when one of them suggested that they go out and "kick somebody's butt," and they decided to target a homeless person they didn't know.
Johnson said they "kept calling me a bum and telling me to get a job." He suffered a fractured cheekbone and had cuts and bruises over his body.
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.
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