AKRON — Marcus Coker says he's willing to die for stabbing his girlfriend to death in a Cuyahoga Falls apartment if the family of the woman he killed wants him put to death.
“I agree to whatever sentence the family wants,” said the Akron man, who pleaded no contest and was found guilty Tuesday of aggravated murder and numerous other charges.
Coker, 36, wasn’t indicted with death penalty specifications, but does face life in prison when he is sentenced June 28 by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Kelly McLaughlin.
Cuyahoga Falls police said that 27-year-old Ashley M. Williams was stabbed multiple times in an apartment in Howe Avenue’s 1000 block in the late evening Sept. 22, 2017. Her body was discovered the next day by the apartment’s resident. The resident called 911 at about 7:30 p.m., telling a dispatcher that a friend had been staying with him in the apartment, but he did not know the whereabouts of the friend or who the woman was.
Coker’s no-contest pleas and statement to the Williams family Tuesday were the latest strange turns in his murder case, which also included him representing himself and refusing last week to come to court. He was scheduled to go on trial Wednesday.
“Today, I’m speaking for a person who was temporarily insane and not the man here right now,” said Coker, who spoke while sitting because he lost a leg in a crash after a police chase 20 years ago. “Society says that I have a right to defend myself but the spirit of our God tells me to defend negativity is never right, so I’m not going there.”
Coker met with his standby attorneys and prosecutors for several hours Tuesday afternoon before accepting a plea agreement that allowed him to be sentenced in late June. The delayed sentencing will give him time to fast for Ramadan while in the Summit County Jail before being shipped to prison.
Tracy Mullins, Williams’ mother, wept as she listened to Assistant Prosecutor Joe Dangelo provide details of her daughter’s violent death. Dangelo said Coker held down the 27-year-old woman, choked her so hard that bones broke in her neck and then stabbed her.
The medical examiner wasn’t able to determine whether the strangling or the stabbing caused Ashley’s death, Dangelo said.
Coker pleaded no contest to all charges in two of three cases pending against him — one case involving Williams' death and another domestic violence case involving a second ex-girlfriend two days before Williams’ murder. Several of the charges include repeat violent offender specifications that carry the possibility of additional prison time.
McLaughlin found Coker guilty of the charges and specifications.
Prosecutors dismissed a third case against Coker over an alleged assault of a deputy in the Summit County Jail in March 2018.
McLaughlin ordered a pre-sentence investigation and victim-impact statement.
Coker asked for permission to read a letter to Williams’ family, which was unusual because defendants don’t normally speak until their sentencing. McLaughlin allowed him to speak.
Coker, who has been studying the Bible and the Quran, included several spiritual references in his statement.
“When I didn’t know who I was, I sent negative vibrations into the universe, which affected mothers, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, fathers and friends,” he said. “Hopefully, the actions of this day can send good vibrations into the universe and produce fruits of love.”
Coker said he deserves “whatever I get.”
In an interview with the Beacon Journal at the Summit County Jail earlier this month, Coker said he decided to represent himself because he didn’t agree with decisions that his attorneys had made. He discussed lawsuits he filed against Summit County Common Pleas Court and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which provides security at the jail. He also aired a long list of complaints, including not being permitted to get treatment for hemorrhoids, go to the gym or library, or buy affordable extra washcloths.
Ophie Williams, Ashley’s father, was incensed when he read Coker’s complaints.
“My daughter does not get to go to the library or the gym or have access to a computer,” Williams said. “It’s just not fair.”
Williams said his daughter worked two jobs to provide for her son and daughter, ages 5 and 6, who are now left without a mother.
Williams said he has a prior criminal history but never killed or seriously harmed anyone. He said if Coker had accidentally hurt his daughter, he’d argue for leniency. But, because of how she died, he thinks Coker should get the maximum possible penalty.
“I don’t believe he should ever get out of prison,” Williams said. “If he doesn’t have a washcloth for the rest of his life, oh well.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.