‘Master manipulator’, 20, is jailed for seven years for buying rifle for 17-year-old Bumble date and watching him shoot himself dead
Duncan R. McElroy, 20, was charged with the death of Ace Stenger, 17, in 2019 who was found dead in Brecksville, just outside Cleveland, on July 12
The pair met through the popular dating app Bumble on June 28, 2019 – two weeks later Stenger shot himself
Although both shared histories mental illness and being suicidal, McElroy encouraged his teen friend to kill himself, suggested using a gun, purchased a gun and ammunition
He drove the victim to the spot where she used that gun to shoot himself while he was resent
Charged with involuntary manslaughter, assisted suicide, and improperly furnishing a firearm to a minor, he pled not guilty and was held on a $50,000 bond
McElroy subsequently pled guilty in May to involuntary manslaughter and assisted suicide and on Thursday was sentenced sentenced to five to seven and one-half years in prison by Cuyahoga County judge, Nancy McDonnell
County Prosecutors, painted McElroy as a ‘master manipulator’ who preyed on Stenger’s past struggles with suicidal thoughts to push the boy into taking his life because McElroy was obsessed with death
Addressing the court at his sentencing, McElroy to address the court, he expressed remorse: ‘I wish that I had understood what I was doing before all of this’
An 18-year-old Ohio man who helped a 17-year-old boy he met on a dating app commit suicide by buying him a gun and ammunition, was sentenced to up to seven years in state prison in Cuyahoga County on Thursday. The suicide happened in 2019
Duncan R. McElroy, now 20, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, improperly furnishing firearms to a minor and assisted suicide in May over the death of Ace Stenger, 17, who was found dead in Brecksville, just outside Cleveland, on July 12, 2019.
McElroy, then 18, and Stenger, 17, had met on the dating app Bumble on June 28, 2019, and met in person one day later. They only knew each other for about two weeks before Stenger took his own life. Before Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy McDonnell sentenced McElroy, to five to seven and one-half years in prison, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Saleh Awadallah, painted McElroy as a ‘master manipulator’ who preyed on Stenger’s past struggles with suicidal thoughts to push the boy into taking his life because McElroy was obsessed with death.
“He wanted to see somebody die,” Awadallah said.
“He picked this person, manipulated this person all the way through the end, which was the death.”
According to reports, McElroy drove Stenger to three different stores in the area before locating one that sold him a 22-caliber rifle and ammunition.
McElroy pled guilty in May to involuntary manslaughter and assisted suicide.
McElroy and Stenger met through the popular dating app Bumble on June 28, 2019. Stenger, who lived in Parma, identified as transgender, and McElroy had recently begun to explore his sexuality, Gilbert said. Stenger was planning to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology that fall, and McElroy had recently left an engineering program at the University of Cincinnati, according to court filings.
The two also had histories of mental-health issues, including severe cases of depression that led to suicidal thoughts, the records say.
The two connected quickly. The day after they matched on Bumble, they met in person. Stenger eventually went to McElroy’s home and met his siblings.
They also began discussing suicide, the text messages revealed.
Medical records showed that in the months before the two met, Stenger’s therapist did not believe that Stenger was contemplating suicide. His mother gave him $11,000 for college, and he seemed excited to go to school, Awadallah said.
Around July 8, McElroy helped Stenger try to strangle himself with a belt, but they stopped before he lost consciousness. Four days later, Stenger told McElroy that he wanted to try a year in college. McElroy said he was glad, and Stenger said that they could possibly try again around Christmas break. He told McElroy he was sorry.
McElroy asked, “You feel sorry for wanting to live?”
“Yeah, I do,” Stenger replied. “I don’t even want to live. I just want to see what college is like.”
McElroy then asked if Stenger wanted him to try to find someone else to help before he left for Rochester, and Stenger said finding someone online would be too risky because it would leave “a trail of breadcrumbs.”
While the two exchanged the text messages on their cellphone, McElroy searched Google for guns and same-day pickup at Walmart on his laptop.
McElroy then sent a text to Stenger, “I have a proposition for you,” and then the two spoke on the phone for 18 minutes. Stenger then texted McElroy to make sure he wore “a hoody that fits,” the messages showed.
The two drove to a Walgreens about 5:30 p.m., where Stenger bought a bottle of Tylenol. Stenger then sent a text message to a friend that said, “I am going to die tonight.” He laid out a detailed plan of how Stenger planned to end his life. The message also told the friend to tell McElroy that it wasn’t his fault, even though the two were together at the time. Stenger also sent a similar text message to McElroy.
Investigators believe the messages were meant to cover McElroy’s involvement in Stenger’s death.
After the pair could not keep a plan of suicide by knife, McElroy suggested they get a gun instead. He was 18, so he could buy one. He tried two places, but he failed to obtain a weapon, Awadallah said.
McElroy then got on his phone and searched for gun shops before settling on a shop in Brecksville and drove Stenger there. McElroy went in and spent nearly an hour buying the gun as Stenger, who was having stomach convulsions and vomiting from the Tylenol, sat in the car. Surveillance video captured McElroy leaving the store at one point to check that Stenger was still alive.
McElroy tried to help Stenger pull the trigger, but the two couldn’t figure out how to properly cock the gun. They looked at the manual and got the gun to work, and Stenger used it to die by suicide.
After the deed, McElroy called 911 about 9:40 p.m. Sobbing, he told a dispatcher that he found his friend in the park, who then he took the gun from him and ran into the woods and killed himself.
Metroparks Rangers arrested McElroy on a charge of furnishing a weapon to minor and held him for several hours, until he admitted the story he first told was a lie.
Nicholas Valente, a Metroparks detective, testified Thursday that investigators initially suspected McElroy of killing Stenger. They measured his arms and the length of the gun because they didn’t believe Stenger’s arms could reach the trigger.
Furthermore, investigators also found gunshot residue on the dead teen’s hands. None was found on McElroy.
Valente said that investigators still do not know for sure how the shooting transpired because the only witness was McElroy.
Prosecutors likened the defendant to a switch operator on a train track, with Stenger facing two directions: managing his depression and college in one direction and suicide in the other. McElroy threw the switch to send Stenger on the road to death, Awadallah said.
“Ace was not going to die that night by gunshot without Duncan’s assistance,” he said.
In the lead up to his suicide, McElroy drove Stenger to three different stores in the area before locating one that sold him a 22-caliber rifle and ammunition, according to the court documents. He then drove to a location in the Brecksville Reservation where Stenger used the rifle to fatally shoot himself in the head.
McElroy then called 911 to report Stenger’s death. First responders found McElroy beside his teenage friend’s body when they arrived.
McElroy had initially told police that Stenger had stolen the rifle, which he had bought a day earlier, from his car.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Saleh Awadallah claims that McElroy was a ‘master manipulator’ who deliberately preyed on Stenger’s history of battling depression during Thursday’s proceedings in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
Awadallah told presiding Judge Nancy McDonnell that McElroy ‘was obsessed’ with death and used Stenger’s history to convince him to shoot himself.
‘He wanted to see somebody die,’ Awadallah said, according to The Plain Dealer.
‘He picked this person, manipulated this person all the way through the end, which was the death.’
Awadallah also said McElroy ‘greased the situation towards suicide, towards the demise of Ace, including getting them off the track to college and on the track to death.’
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy McDonnell sentenced McElroy, to five to seven and one-half years in prison after McElroy pled guilty in May to involuntary manslaughter and assisted suicide.
Appealing to the judge to sentence his client to an inpatient facility instead of a prison, defense attorney, Terry Gilbert, called McElroy’s lifelong pediatrician and childhood psychologist to document McElroy’s own history of depression and suicide attempts, including his first attempt to take his life aged just 9.
McElroy’s mother testified that their family have a history of depression and suicide, including herself. Her son had been in and out of treatment for his depression ever since, she said. She found him trying to hang himself in their home when he was 9 years old, as the family struggled through a divorce.
Gilbert told the court that placing McElroy in prison could cause him to once again self-harm, saying he didn’t want to ‘see another young person die over this.’
Judge McDonnell however, turned down the request by the defense, stating that their client was an integral part of the events surrounding Stenger’s death.
‘If you didn’t buy that gun for… him, it wouldn’t have happened,’ McDonnell said. ‘Period. End of story.’
McElroy himself addressed the court, and mentioned that he understood his actions and felt remorse.
Since his arrest, McElroy had been housed at an inpatient facility in Geauga County. After sentencing, he will now he will serve his sentence in a state prison.