AKRON, Ohio — After several moments of confusion in a Summit County courtroom Thursday, a man eventually pleaded guilty to the murder of 18-year-old Samantha Guthrie, a teenager whose body was found dumped in a wooded area last year. His co-defendant also eventually accepted a plea after appearing to back out, and elicited a strong reaction when she addressed the victim's family.
Danny Hamby and Toni Kenney were charged in the death of 18-year-old Samantha Guthrie. The teen's body was found concealed under a pile of tree branches and leaves in a wooded area off of Rex Hill Road in New Franklin on Nov. 25, 2018.
The Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the case a homicide and said Guthrie had been shot in the head and sustained three cuts to her neck.
Summit County Court of Common Pleas records show Hamby and Kenney were indicted in December 2018 on multiple charges, including murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and gross abuse of a corpse. They were later charged with kidnapping and complicity to commit murder, according to a supplemental indictment filed on Jan. 23, 2019.
Hamby appeared in court Thursday where he was expected to plead guilty to all of his charges. After reading the possible requirement of a sentence if he pleaded guilty, he and his attorney left the courtroom to discuss.
They returned to the courtroom, and Hamby pleaded guilty to murder, having a weapon under disability, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse. He faces 24 year to life in prison.
Hamby, already a registered sex offender from a previous conviction, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday at 2 p.m.
Kenney was also scheduled to appear in court and was expected to plead guilty to her charges as well, but her attorneys said she backed out of her plea deal and was expected to go to trial next week for the murder of Guthrie.
"This is my life and I did not do this," Kenney told Judge Kathryn Michael.
The judge refused Kenney's request for a new attorney.
"We're either going to have a resolution today, or we have a trial on Monday morning," said Michael.
Kenney then left the courtroom and met with family members to discuss the plea deal.
She then returned to court and pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse and kidnapping in the Guthrie case, as well as carrying a concealed weapon in a separate case.
Kenney's sentencing is also scheduled for Monday.
After pleading guilty, Kenney addressed Guthrie's family members, who were in the courtroom during the hearing.
"To all of Samantha Guthrie's family, I am so sorry for your loss and that's something that no mother should have to endure by having their child die before them. I have experienced the loss of a child before and it's something you can't get back," Kenney said. "I'm truly sorry for what Danny did to your daughter and if I had it in my power I would turn back time, I really would. For her and my sake. But I'm really sorry, no one should have to ever die like that, no one should ever have to feel that loss."
Her apology was not well-received by Guthrie's family.
Guthrie's mother spoke exclusively with News 5 and said Kenny's apology means nothing.
"She had three weeks to say her sorrys and tell me where my daughter was and she refused to say anything," said Joni Jackson. "She stayed silent the whole, entire time so her apology means nothing."
Jackson plans to speak Monday at the sentencing.
After Kenney's family expressed their love for her on her way out of the courtroom, a member of Guthrie's family appeared to respond to the exchange, saying: "We love you, Samantha."
Two other defendants in the case had previously pleaded guilty.
Dylan Brown pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, attempted kidnapping and aggravated possession of drugs. He faces 12 years in prison.
William Alexander pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse and attempted kidnapping.
Both Brown and Alexander are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22.
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