CLEVELAND (WJW) — An accomplice in the murder of former Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson’s grandson received a life sentence and won’t be eligible for parole for at least 33 years.
Robert Shepard 30, of Cleveland, was found guilty in October of aggravated murder, murder and felonious assault in the September 2021 shooting death of 24-year-old Frank Q. Jackson.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Deena Calabrese on Tuesday sentenced Shepard to 30 years to life on the aggravated murder charge, with an additional mandatory three-year sentence on the gun specification for that charge. He was also credited for more than a year spent in jail.
Prosecutors said Shepard and Jackson knew each other. Jackson on Sept. 19, 2021, let Shepard borrow his dirt bike and “trusted him enough to let him return it to him,” said Assistant County Prosecutor Kristin Karkutt.
But that exchange was the “catalyst” for Jackson’s execution, she said.
Shepard was the “set-up person,” said Karkutt. He lured Jackson to Sidaway Avenue and East 70th Street in Cleveland later that day, where another person shot him. Shepard and the shooter fled. Jackson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Bystanders were also struck by gunfire, including a 12-year-old boy whom Karkutt said the shooter mistook for Jackson and “was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The boy survived, but the suspect has not been apprehended, she said.
“Our city is a disaster when it comes to gun violence,” Judge Calabrese said Tuesday. “There has to be something so dramatic that happens to stop it. People don’t even want to walk on the east side of Cleveland. It’s frightening.
“But also the retribution of families killing other families is horrible,” the judge continued. “[They are] not cooperating with police, not solving anything. It’s just going to lead back to this courtroom and all the courtrooms in this building over and over again until it stops with people’s families.
“It’s a tragedy we are here today.”
Police have yet to identify Jackson’s killer, but Shepard was arrested the following October. Karkutt said Shepard may be the only person to be held accountable for Jackson’s death. But under complicity law, Shepard is just equally accountable, “as if he pulled the trigger,” she said.
Jackson’s family did not make a statement during the Tuesday hearing, but asked for a sentence that was “adequate” for the offense — “to show justice for Frank Q. Jackson,” Karkutt said. Jackson’s mother died shortly after her son’s murder, she said.
“They are dealing with a lot of loss,” Karkutt said.
Shepard, whom Judge Calabrese said is listed as a member of the Heartless Felons gang, has a criminal history dating back to 2005, when he committed assault and drug trafficking offenses as a juvenile. He also has other low-level felony offenses on his adult record, and most recently was sentenced to prison in 2018 on weapons and burglary charges and for failing to comply with police orders.
He was released from prison in March 2020, his defense attorneys said.
Shepard’s attorneys said he intends to file an appeal, which must come in 30 days.