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Last two defendants in meth-related death of toddler plead guilty

By Ed Meyer, Akron Beacon Journal –

AKRON, Ohio — The last two defendants in the drug-related death of 17-month-old Patrick Nicholas Lerch pleaded guilty Friday to charges related to the homicide.

Ronald S. Legg, 22, the brother of co-defendant Randy L. Legg, 20, pleaded guilty to murder, endangering children and illegal manufacturing of drugs.

Randy Legg, the former boyfriend of Patrick’s mother, Heather Lerch, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacturing of drugs.

Patrick, who was unresponsive when an emergency squad took him to Akron Children’s Hospital on the night of Feb. 26, died from ingesting methamphetamine at a two-story home in Goodyear Heights, Ohio, autopsy results showed. He also had burns and bruises from head to toe, prosecutors said in earlier court testimony.

Akron police said from the outset of the criminal investigation that responding patrol officers found a meth lab in the St. Leger Avenue home’s basement, where Patrick spent much of his time. They found additional drug evidence in the kitchen, a bedroom and the area outside.

Lerch, 21, was convicted last month in a Summit County jury trial of one count of murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of child endangering. She and Ronald Legg are scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday morning by Judge Tom Parker.

Neither of the Legg brothers said much in open court Friday.

But when Parker asked Ronald Legg if he fully understood all of the terms of his plea deal, Legg took responsibility for Patrick’s death.

“I messed up,” he said. “I put a child in a situation where he was exposed to methamphetamine in that house. I want to take full responsibility. I want to take full responsibility for what I have done.”

Parker ordered a pre-sentence investigation in the case against Randy Legg, who is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 23.

In explaining terms of the negotiations with the defense, Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi told the court that both sides had agreed to merge the murder charge and the endangering children charge for purposes of sentencing Ronald Legg.

Parker, however, will have the final say.

LoPrinzi said Ronald Legg faces either life in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years, or life with parole eligibility after 28 years.

Randy Legg faces a sentence of three to 11 years, LoPrinzi said, for the manslaughter plea.

The fourth co-defendant, Allen Kostra, 25, testified against Lerch at her trial after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and manufacturing meth. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

At Lerch’s trial, Kostra said he used meth virtually the entire time he was in the home, from about 2 p.m. Feb. 25 (a Saturday), until after 10:45 p.m. Sunday, when an emergency crew took Patrick to Akron Children’s Hospital.

“I never stopped using from the day I got there to two weeks prior,” Kostra said.

He testified that he and Ronald Legg cooked meth in the basement, from crushed pills, and used it to such an extent that Kostra said he had not slept in close to three days.

Lerch took her son to live with Randy Legg at the St. Leger home in early February.

The Legg brothers were living there with their mother and stepfather, neither of whom was charged with any crimes.

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