Sheriff: Ross Twp teen slaying began as robbery plot

Austin Hensley
Austin Hensley
Zach Welsh
Zach Welsh

ROSS TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - A 17-year-old Ross High School student is accused of gunning down an 18-year-old classmate during a robbery, and the Butler County sheriff wants him tried as an adult.

"It's a horrific crime and a sad loss of life," Sheriff Richard Jones said.

Zach Welsh lured Austin Hensley to a duplex on the 900 block of Hine Road Tuesday night with the intention of robbing him, Jones said during a news conference Wednesday.

Welsh and Hensley met to trade guns, but a fight erupted, according to the sheriff.

The teen shot and killed Hensley, a criminal complaint states. Then,he washed and wiped down the gun before hiding it.

The teens "shouldn't have had guns anyway," said Jones, comparing Welch to a gangster.

This is not Welsh's first time in the court system. He was kicked out of school for an unrelated incident, the sheriff noted.

"If you want to act like gangsters and you have guns and you have drugs and you violate break the law and you get kicked out of school, no good comes of that," Jones said. "Gangsters end up either dead or in prison."

Welsh is held on charges of murder, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence at the county's juvenile detention center.

He briefly appeared in a juvenile courtroom Wednesday and returns to court Feb. 12.

A second suspect, Joshua Taylor, was charged with theft of a fire arm. He stole a .38 caliber handgun, the sheriff said, refusing to confirm it was used to kill Hensley or to even explain the weapon's role in the case.

Sheriff's detectives are still investigating the shooting and interviewing other suspects.

Ross High School Principal Brian Martin sent a lengthy message to parents early Wednesday, alerting them to the shooting and assuring them students were safe at the school.

"As some of you may have already heard, another Ross High school student's life was tragically cut short last night. Austin Hensley, a junior, died in the shooting yesterday around 6 p.m. at a residence in Ross Township," his message states.

"While police are still investigating and we do not know all the details at this time, we do know that a juvenile also from Ross High School is in custody connected with the shooting.

"Anytime a young person's life is cut short, it is a tragedy. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Austin's death or whether your student knew Austin well or didn't know him at all, his passing is a loss for our school, our friends and our family. Please keep this in mind in the days and weeks to come."

"As we always do in these situations, we will have additional staff on hand to support our students and faculty in the hours, days and weeks to come. We will release more information as it becomes available and as we are made aware of it by law enforcement if it is pertinent to our situation.

"Your students are safe. We are here to support them and care for them and love them and, once again, we will do this in the days and weeks to come."

Ross High School sent out a statement Wednesday afternoon echoing Martin's thoughts.

Our hearts are broken over the events that have transpired over the past 24 hours involving three of our students.  We loved Austin, and our prayers go out to his friends and family.  These events are yet another reminder that no community is immune from the scourge of senseless gun violence.  We are sure that as the police investigation unfolds, more details will come to light.  However, that does not and will not change the fact that a young man has lost his life and, regardless of the circumstances, that is a tragedy.

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