Two men charged with killing a Delaware businessman seven years ago pleaded not guilty last week to a host of felony charges.

Two men charged with killing a Delaware businessman seven years ago pleaded not guilty last week to a host of felony charges.

James Brenson Jr., 55, and William Allen, 63, both of Toledo, last Monday maintained their innocence in the June 12, 2000 murder of Norman Herrell of Delaware.

Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Everett Krueger subsequently set bond for both men at $750,000, and tentatively scheduled trials for them to begin on May 2.

Meanwhile, state-appointed public defenders for both men will begin the task of attempting to debunk Delaware County prosecutor Dave Yost's cases against them. Brenson is facing eight felony charges: two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery and one count each of murder and tampering with evidence.

Allen faces the same charges, with the exception of the tampering with evidence charge.

Both men could face life in prison if found guilty. They were indicted by a grand jury on April 16, but Yost and Delaware police have suspected them of murdering Herrell for some time.

After Herrell was found stabbed to death in his basement seven years ago, Brenson was charged with murder. That case, however, was dropped six months later after local authorities said they needed more time to collect evidence against him.

Due to a "gag" order put in place by Krueger, neither Yost nor the defendants have said much about the case. Details are expected to become clearer as Krueger sorts through at least 30 motions that have been filed regarding potential evidence in the case.

Following Monday's arraignments, Allen's attorney, William Mooney, as well as Brenson's legal representative, Kirk McVay, declined comment on the case.

During the hearing, however, both said their clients weren't flight risks.

"Mr. Allen has been a resident of Toledo for a number of years," Mooney said. "He's worked, he's married and has children up there.

"We understand the severe nature of the offenses for which he's been indicted, but he's entered a plea of not guilty. We intend to vigorously defend his innocence."

McVay said Brenson had an opportunity to run when initially charged with Herrell's murder.

"In light of the fact he previously has been charged with these crimes and they were dismissed more than seven years ago, I think he had ample opportunity (to flee)," McVay said.

Brenson and Allen both have criminal histories.

At 14, Brenson was convicted in adult court for killing a Toledo grocer during an attempted robbery, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Allen has been convicted of rape and robbery in Lucas County.

nellis@thisweeknews.com