WARREN TOWNSHIP - A Warren woman well-known to local police and believed to have been addicted to drugs was found dead, likely from a gunshot wound to the head, after her body lay in the middle of the street for about six hours.
Police still are trying to piece together exactly what happened leading up to the death of Valerie L. Warren, 42, of 1334 Pearl Ave., who was found by a Tribune Chronicle deliverywoman around 5 a.m. Thursday, six hours after police believe she was killed on 7th-Howard Street near Highland Avenue S.W.
"We have an idea of what happened, but we aren't releasing the specifics around the case or the timeline of events leading up to the shots being fired," said Lt. Don Bishop. He said there are no suspects in the case.
Bishop said Warren was talking to friends and family throughout the night but those he interviewed said she was never in distress or expressed she was in danger. He said investigators have not found a weapon but did find one shell casing in the area.
The Trumbull County Medical Examiner's Office began an autopsy Thursday and expects to finish it Friday. Bishop said he would not call the incident a homicide until the coroner makes a ruling, but that "the evidence is there."
If ruled a homicide, the shooting death is the first in the township since 2002 and only the third since 1998. The last shooting death in the township was November 2002 when Bobby Lee Hughley III, 24, was killed during a birthday celebration at the American Legion Post 564 on Bane St. S.W. In that case, Daryl "Silk" Henderson was cleared of murder charges by a Trumbull County Grand Jury.
Investigators from the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office Detective Division, including Major Thomas Stewart, Howland Police Chief Paul Munroe and Capt. Frank Dillon searched the surrounding area for clues at about 1 p.m. Thursday.
Nearby was a dark pool of blood on the right side of the gravel roadway. Investigators searched the side field outside the former JAS Manufacturing building 1710 Highland Ave., where the body was found and the inside of an abandoned building across the street.
Nearby residents said they heard gunshots that police believe killed Warren just before 11 p.m. Warren was found by Tribune Chronicle delivery person Susan Zimmerman.
"I was on 7th Street, and I turned on Highland and thought it was a guy laying in the gravel street in front of the big yellow metal building," Zimmerman said. "I continued on to my next stop and called 911. I only learned she was dead after I got home, and a friend called me."
Residents said they heard gunshots late Wednesday, a normal occurrence in the area. They said they didn't know the woman, but two residents that live yards away from where the woman was found said they saw a car drive up and down the small road twice around the time they heard the gunshots.
"We're used to it around here," said 14-year resident Carl Smith. "I just figured it was another drive-by shooting. We get a lot of them around here. There's a lot of times I have lay on the ground in front of my couch because I'm scared. This is terrible."
A search of county records showed Warren had several convictions, mostly for drug and theft offenses and was suspected of several other crimes. She was on probation until 2016 after being convicted of drug possession in December.
Warren who previously lived in Girard, Lordstown and Niles and Warren City failed out of Drug Court in 2008 after pleading guilty to felony possession of crack cocaine and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to one year in prison.
Reports said she was suspected, but not charged, of several other crimes.
A report from July 14 said a 74-year-old man described as her ex-boyfriend, filed a civil stalking protection order against Warren, claiming she came to his Farmdale home begging for money. He told sheriff's deputies at the time she was a heroin addict and that he believed she broke into his home later that night.
''I do believe she was well known to local police departments,'' Bishop said.