Almost three years after shooting, Hilliard’s Hart takes one day at a time
Hilliard resident Jamie Hart, 33, says he has good days and bad days.
But his good days, and especially his bad ones, are different than those of most people.
Hart survived what he calls his attempted murder at the hands of his former fiancee, who shot him in the face outside his employer’s Dublin office on the morning of Dec. 14, 2010. He lost his left eye and part of his forehead.
Melissa Stredney pleaded guilty to felonious assault and tampering with evidence, but charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and improper handling of a firearm were dropped as part of a plea deal.
The resolution of the criminal case “was frustrating,” Hart said.
“I wanted the (attempted murder) charge,” he said. “She tried to kill me. I shouldn’t be here. I was shot in the head.”
Hart said prosecutors explained to him that Stredney would not agree to plead guilty to attempted murder, but because a plea to felonious assault and tampering with evidence would result in a nearly identical sentence, prosecutors and Stredney’s attorney agreed to a plea bargain.
Stredney, 33, is serving a 15-year sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the felonious assault and an additional three years for a gun specification. She is eligible for parole Dec. 10, 2025.
Hart has seen Stredney once since the day she shot him: in the courtroom of Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Richard Sheward on June 21, 2011, when Stredney was sentenced.
He said that was one of the bad days.
“She never even apologized for it, except to say something like she was sorry it had to come to this,” Hart said. “She never owned up to it.”
Since that day, Hart has continued living his life, but has found the emotional recovery more difficult than the physical one.
Eight reconstructive surgeries have largely hidden the damage the bullet inflicted, but Hart said he struggles in other ways.
“I’m careful who I let in my life. It’s a sad side effect,” Hart said. “I used to be open with everyone I met.”
Last year, he dated a woman for about three months, the only time he has dated since the shooting.
“But I wasn’t ready yet,” he said. “I need to deal with some fear and I know that will take a little more time.”
Hart said he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I still flinch at loud sounds and have trouble focusing,” he said.
Nightmares are not uncommon.
Hart recently was cleared to work and is working part-time for a property management company.
He did not return to work where the shooting occurred shortly before 8 a.m. Dec. 14, 2010, outside NCO Financial Services, 5626 Frantz Road.
Hart and NCO Financial Services reached a resolution in U.S. District Court concerning the incident, said Hilliard attorney Nathan Painter, who represented Hart in the NCO Financial Services case and in a civil lawsuit against Stredney.
In the civil case, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge ordered Stredney to pay Hart $4 million in damages, Painter said.
While Hart remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the criminal case, the prosecutors of the case said Stredney’s 15-year sentence was three fewer than the maximum sentence she could have received, and that Stredney was willing to serve 15 years.
“But she insisted she did not intend to kill Jamie,” said Franklin County prosecutor David Zeyen.
Zeyen said, at the time of the sentencing, the maximum sentence for attempted murder was 10 years. Stredney could have received a maximum of three years for the gun specification and five years for tampering with evidence, resulting in a possible maximum sentence of 18 years.
Prosecutors also considered the fact that Stredney had no prior felony arrests. Her criminal record included only misdemeanors, Zeyen said.
Because Stredney was willing to plead to felonious assault, prosecutors accepted a plea.
“She was willing to do 15 years. I think it was fair resolution,” Zeyen said.
Andrew Selwa, an attorney who represented Stredney, said he initially explored pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, but a review by NetCare deemed her competent to stand trial.
Selwa would not comment about not seeking an independent psychiatric study.
“I hear she is doing well (at Marysville), where I think she is getting the help she needs,” Selwa said.
Meanwhile, Hart said, he takes each day one at a time.
He said he considers each one a gift. To remind him, he got a tattoo on his left wrist bearing the Roman numerals XII, XIV and X, or 12, 14 and 10, which represent the day he was shot – and the day he received a new lease on life, he said.
Hart, a 1998 graduate of Davidson High School, said his family – including his parents, Richard and Janet, and his twin sister, Jessica – helps him though the tough days.
He also visits a therapist and has searched for support groups but discovered there are few, if any, for male victims of domestic violence.
Hart’s injuries have limited him from playing many of the sports he once enjoyed, but he has moved on to new endeavors, including running.
Hart plans to run the half marathon in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon on Oct. 20.
It will be his third half marathon.
“It’s a stress release,” said Hart, who runs about 35 to 45 miles a week.
“He is a remarkable individual,” Painter said. “The attitude he holds, and what he does today, he deserves all the credit in the world.”