A Sherman Street resident has been charged with murder in the June 6 stabbing death of Jeffrey A. Sipes, 57, in his Silver Meadows apartment.
Leonard J. Armstrong, 49, was arrested without incident by just after 10 a.m. Wednesday at 112 Sherman St., Apt. 2, and charged with first-degree felony murder.
Sgt. Dan Cardinal of the Portage County Sheriff’s Office said Armstrong is being held at the Portage County jail, where he awaits a 1:15 p.m. video arraignment Thursday before a Portage County Municipal Court judge.
Cardinal said that on any felony charge, bond is not set until the defendant’s initial court appearance.
Sipes was found dead just after 8 p.m. June 6 in Apt. 303 at 933 Lawrence Court, where police had been dispatched to conduct a well-being check on behalf of someone who knew him.
His body was taken to the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office, where a preliminary autopsy report indicated Sipes died from internal injuries caused by a stab wound. He lay dead less than one day before police found his body, officials said.
A press release issued by Kent police Wednesday said Sipes died of “stab wounds,” indicating multiple wounds. But Tom Decker, chief investigator for the Portage County Coroner's Office, said he could not release information on how many times Sipes was stabbed.
Decker said a final autopsy report, including microbiological and drug and alcohol test results, generally takes eight to 12 weeks to complete. No matter what lab results reveal, though, “it won’t change the fact that he died as the result of a stab wound,” Decker said.
Police are not releasing details about possible motive or if Armstrong is the "person of interest" they were investigating in the days following Sipes' murder.
Fellow residents of 112 Sherman St. — a large home built in 1890, now divided into nearly a dozen boarding-house units — told Kent Patch that Armstrong moved into Apt. 2 on the first floor late last year.
Several residents, speaking off the record, said Armstrong always said hello when passing in the hallway and would often sit on the front porch with his neighbors. However, said one man, "He was weird ... he would tell these long stories and 90 percent of the time I had no idea what he was talking about."
The man said his unit shares a wall with Armstrong's unit and that he heard large objects being thrown at the wall and doors slamming hard repeatedly on numerous occasions, often late at night. Another resident admitted hearing such noises from Armstrong's unit more than once.
The man said he had seen, but not talked to Armstrong in a couple days because he had become distant and seemed agitated.
Armstrong's housemates said he earned a living as a "scrapper," finding recyclable items to sell to salvage yards for cash.
The Plain Dealer reported that Armstrong was homeless, that he "sometimes lived with" Sipes and that Kent police had "said they were investigating at least one man who sometimes lived with Sipes." The Record-Courier also reported, according to anonymous sources, that Sipes had other people living with him in his apartment in the weeks leading up to his death.
Portage County online municipal court records show Armstrong was arrested Jan. 7 by Kent police and charged with theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The theft complainant was an administrator for .
Armstrong pleaded no contest Jan. 11 before Portage County Municipal Court Judge Kevin Poland. The drug charge was dropped, and he was found guilty of theft, fined $500 and sentenced to 180 days in jail. However, $350 of the fine and 177 days of jail time were waived. His driver’s license was suspended for six months.
In early March, Armstrong received a 60-day extension to pay off his $150 fine and $92 in court costs related to the case. One month later, he requested community work service in lieu of paying fees, but Poland wrote that Armstrong’s request could not be considered until formal paperwork was submitted.
Armstrong’s home address was listed as 646 Third St. in Ravenna on one of his January court documents, as well as on 2010 court documents related to two traffic-related violations.
Armstrong is listed on the Ohio Attorney General’s Electronic Sex Offender Registration and Notification website. His listing, including a mugshot, was last updated Feb. 7. It stated he was “compliant” and had no outstanding warrants. The charges that landed him in the registry are unclear, but appear to have occurred out of state.
Sipes is survived by his sisters, Rilla Wages of Kent and Vivian (Lee) Esh of Canoe Creek, PA; his brothers, Gerald Sipes and James (Carol) Sipes of Newton Falls; as well as many nieces and nephews, according to an online obituary posted by Wood-Kortright-Borkoski Funeral Home in Ravenna. He was buried June 14 at Deerfield Cemetery.
"Jeff was a hardworking, good hearted person who was always willing to help a friend in need," his family wrote in the obituary. "He will be deeply missed by everyone that loved him."
Sipes' murder is the third in as many years in Kent.
Delaware, OH, native John T. White — a student at Kent State University — died after being beaten in January 2010 in downtown Kent. His attacker, John Ragin Jr. of Akron, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2010.
In November 2009, Christopher Kernich, another Kent State student, died after being assaulted in downtown Kent. Kernich's attackers, Ronald Kelly and Adrian Barker, both were found guilty of murdering Kernich.
Prior to 2009, Kent's last recorded homicides — two of them — took place in 2004.