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Permanent parking: Man sentenced to life in prison for murdering neighbor over parking spot

Johnnie Wappner, 33, center, was sentenced Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2023 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to life in prison with the opportunity for parole after 21 years for murdering 32-year-old Marcus Deloney last year during a fight over a parking spot outside a duplex on Columbus' North Side.
Johnnie Wappner, 33, center, was sentenced Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2023 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to life in prison with the opportunity for parole after 21 years for murdering 32-year-old Marcus Deloney last year during a fight over a parking spot outside a duplex on Columbus' North Side.

A judge sentenced an Ohio man convicted of murdering his neighbor during an argument over a parking spot to life in prison with the opportunity for parole after 21 years.

Johnnie Wappner, 33, killed 32-year-old Marcus Deloney on Sept. 21, 2022 outside a duplex on the north side of Columbus in the Sharon Heights area.

A jury found Wappner guilty on Nov. 17 of all charges: murder, reckless homicide and felonious assault.

A fight between Wappner's and Deloney's families over a parking spot at the duplex escalated, and Wappner hit Deloney on the head multiple times with a firearm before shooting him in the back, according to Franklin County prosecutors.

Judge Mark Serrott sentenced Wappner on Wednesday after denying his request for a new trial. Serrott said this was a senseless murder over a parking spot and another example of rampant gun violence in Columbus.

One of Wappner's attorneys, Lumumba Toure McCord, said the killing wasn't deliberate. "I believe there was either negligence or recklessness," McCord said.

He argued that Wappner deserves another trial because the judge should have instructed the jury to consider evidence that Wappner was defending another person.

Some witnesses said during the trial that Wappner was trying to stop Deloney from choking his teenage stepson.

But the judge noted that the autopsy showed the gunshot killed Deloney and Wappner testified that he accidentally fired the gun. Shooting to defend someone and shooting accidentally are mutually exclusive legal theories, Serrott said.

Wappner did not speak during the sentencing hearing as he intends to appeal his case.

Deborah Payne, Deloney's mother, said during the sentencing hearing that Wappner's lack of remorse is despicable.

"My prayer today is that he will have a permanent parking spot in prison until either one of two things happens: Jesus comes and splits the sky or his heart stops and the breath leaves his body. Whichever comes first," Payne said.

Payne described Deloney as a great father, husband, son, coach and mentor. Serrott said he could not believe the number of letters he got from people touched by Deloney.

Laird can be reached at jlaird@dispatch.com or on X @LairdWrites

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio man who murdered neighbor over parking spot gets life sentence