Drone to be used in double-murder trial
Aircraft will give jurors pictures of the crime scene
WARREN — The Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department drone has received a court date.
A Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judge on Thursday authorized use of the drone to take pictures over the crime scene in Howland where two people were killed Feb. 25. These photos would be used by any possible jury involved in the death penalty murder trial of defendant Nasser Hamad.
Hamad, 48, is expected to stand trial Oct. 11 on two counts of aggravated murder that carry the death penalty and six counts of attempted aggravated murder in connection to the shooting spree outside his state Route 46 home that left two people dead and three others badly wounded.
The decision to use the drone was made by Judge Ronald J. Rice during a pre-trial for Hamad.
Mahoning Sheriff’s Major Billy Cappabianca said this is the first time the drone, activated by his department in February, would be used by a court. Cappabianca said Friday afternoon he has not yet seen the court order.
The drone photos would be additional information for a jury, which is also expected to visit the crime scene and inspect the van involved prior to the start of trial testimony.
The case revolves around a confrontation between Hamad and occupants of a van that drove up to his Route 46 home late in the afternoon of Feb. 25. Hamad and several occupants of the van had engaged in taunting and threatening behavior over social media in the hours before the shootings, according to a Howland police investigators’ report.
Killed in the shooting were Joshua Haber, 19, and Joshua Williams, 20. The three other gunshot victims were April Vokes, 43; John Shivley, 17; and Bryce Hendrickson, 20. Haber was declared dead at the scene, while Williams later died at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. Vokes was shot in the head, arms, chest and legs while in the driver’s seat of the van. Hendrickson was shot in the face and arm and Shively was shot in the back.
Cappabianca said the drone is one of two used by Mahoning deputies.
“The sheriff (Jerry Greene) has recently purchased a smaller one,” Cappabianca said.
The larger one has been used in a standoff situation, finding hot spots of fires and searching area lakes for potential drowning victims, Cappabianca said.