CLEVELAND — Family and friends of Michael May II were left stunned, frustrated and upset after 42-year-old Anthony Balducci asked the judge to withdraw his guilty plea in May's murder.
Michael May's body was found near the footbridge over I-77 near East 48th Street back in January 2019. Police said May had been shot several times as he was walking home with groceries for his mother.
Balducci, accused of killing May, told the court he was coerced by his attorneys into accepting a plea deal on a weapons and murder charge—a deal that would have made him eligible for parole in 18 years—a deal Balducci claimed he didn't fully understand.
Jo Marie May said she and other families members cried as Balducci's sentencing quickly turned into a huge disappointment with Judge Deena Calabrese deciding to take the plea withdrawal request under consideration.
May said it's a delay in justice that has left her family on an emotional roller coaster in their search for closure .
“I was shocked, I was like 'here we go again.' He’s full of surprises,” May said. "I mean It was the last minute, I had no idea until he said 'my lawyers aren’t doing what I need them to do,' and I was like 'oh no.'"
East 50th Street Block Club members Odetta Fields and Tamika Compton, who have been leading a court watch in the case, said Balducci was once again allowed to emotionally punish the May family.
“Two different things came out of the same mouth," Fields said. "He said 'I think of Jo Marie as a second mom and I’m sorry for taking your son’s life, but I withdraw my plea because I didn’t do it.'"
"This is unfair, he should have not had the opportunity at the end to withdraw his plea," Compton added. "We were at the end, right there.”
Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Kristin Karkutt said she agreed with the decision made by Judge Calabrese, but she's hoping the court will ultimately deny Balducci's plea withdrawal request.
"I think once the court reviews the transcript of the plea that occurred on Monday, she will know that he voluntarily, intelligently entered into that guilty plea," Karkutt said.
The case is now set for a Nov. 6 hearing when the judge will decide if Balducci knowingly accepted the plea deal.
Meanwhile, Jo Marie May is still waiting for justice and closure in her son's murder.
“I wanted him to go to trial, but now I want him take the plea and finish this," May said. "You took a life, you’ve got to give a life.”