YOUNGSTOWN - Jurors who convicted a man of aggravated murder last week in the suffocation deaths of two men in 2009 spared him Tuesday from the death penalty.
Instead, they opted to have Lorenza Barnette, 29, of Lora Avenue, spend the rest of his life in prison with no parole for the Aug. 9, 2009, murders of 19-year-old Darry Woods-Burt and 20-year-old Jaron Roland.
Formal sentencing will be 10 a.m. today before Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney.
Jurors convicted Barnette on Oct. 19. Prosecutors said the victims were bound with duct tape before having garbage bags placed over their heads, which also were bound by duct tape, inside a Fairgreen Avenue home.
After the two died, their bodies were put in a car, which was taken to the banks of the Mahoning River and set on fire. A fisherman found the car and called the fire department, who found their bodies.
After jurors found Barnette guilty, they were excused until Tuesday, when they heard defense attorneys J. Gerald Ingram and Ron Yarwood argue as to why Barnette's life should be spared.
Jurors had four sentencing options: death; life with no parole; life with parole after 30 years; or life with parole after 25 years.
Barnette was eligible for the death penalty because when he was found guilty, jurors also found he had killed two or more people and he committed the murders during the commission of another felony, a kidnapping.
Prosecutors put on a brief opening statement, saying they would rest their case during the sentencing phase on the testimony that showed that Barnette was guilty of death penalty specifications. Yarwood, in a brief opening statement, said that jurors should spare his client's life because he does not have a major criminal record and his jail record shows he would behave in prison. The defense and prosecution presented no witnesses.
Jurors deliberated about two hours before reaching their decision. They would have been sequestered had they not reached a verdict Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Barnette's DNA was found on the tape used to bind Woods-Burt and the garbage bags and he was seen on videotape purchasing duct tape, bags and the lighter fluid used to set the car on fire at a nearby store just hours before the murders.
The two were murdered because they were members of a North Side gang who were thought to be informing to a rival East Side gang.
Two other men will stand trial in the case and could receive the death penalty if they are convicted. The trial for Kenneth Moncrief, 26, of Fairgreen Avenue, is slated for Nov. 11 and the trial for Joseph Moreland, 28, whose listed address is the Mahoning County Justice Center, is scheduled to begin Feb. 13.