Gary Bishop

Gary Bishop

MANSFIELD — The case of a 21-year-old man charged with felonious assault and murder will likely move forward quickly, according to Richland County Prosecutor Gary Bishop. 

Austin Richard Wheatcraft was arraigned Monday morning on one count of murder, a first-degree felony, in Mansfield Municipal Court. A preliminary pre-trial is set for Tuesday, June 22 at 9 a.m. with a preliminary hearing set for Thursday, June 24 at 1 p.m.

"If the judge determines probable cause, that will bind the case over to common pleas court, and then it goes from there," Bishop said. "I do think it's a case that will want to move quickly." 

The charges against Wheatcraft stem from an incident on Thursday, June 17 at a residence on Ashland Road where Wheatcraft allegedly shot a man after finding him in bed with his girlfriend. 

The victim, 19-year-old Caleb Allen Barber, died of his injuries on Friday, June 18 at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital.

Wheatcraft was originally charged with felonious assault on Thursday, June 17; the charge of murder was added on Friday, June 18, according to Mansfield Municipal Court documents. He is currently being held at the Richland County Jail on a $1 million cash bond. 

Sean Boone with the Mayer Law Firm will serve as Wheatcraft's court-appointed attorney, according to court documents. Boone did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. 

Bishop said his office would be representing the state as the case moves forward. 

"In the preliminary hearing, we put out evidence enough to establish there's probable cause to believe he committed the offense," Bishop said. "It's not proven beyond a reasonable doubt at this stage. 

"People charged with felonies have a constitutional right to have some evidence presented to the court within 10 days if in jail, and 15 days if not in jail, so the government can't charge people for no good reason," he said. "We have to put out a modicum of evidence." 

On June 17, the Richland County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to the corner of Kentucky Avenue and Ashland Road in reference to a male, Barber, claiming he had been shot. The suspect, Wheatcraft, had fled the scene on foot. 

According to the sheriff's report, deputies were able to make contact with Wheatcraft's mother, Tina Wheatcraft. She called her son on speakerphone to allow him to speak with the deputies present, including Dep. Brent Broom and Lt. James Nicholson. The conversation was also recorded on the deputies' body cameras. 

The report states Wheatcraft was crying and kept saying he was scared. He stated he went in his girlfriend's residence and located a male sleeping with his girlfriend; Wheatcraft said the male got up out of bed and began assaulting him. He stated he shot the male in self-defense and panicked.

Deputies reported securing a tan 9mm Glock pistol behind a garage in some bushes, but could not locate the magazine. Wheatcraft told deputies he believed the magazine fell out when he was jumping fences to flee the scene. 

Wheatcraft reportedly agreed to turn himself in to the deputies. He stated when he spoke to Lt. Nicholson and Dep. Broom, it made him feel he needed to do the right thing. 

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