Violent and unexpected deaths have plagued Trumbull County for the past six weeks, reaching levels that veteran law enforcement officials haven't encountered before.
Nineteen people have died in the county as a result of a traffic crash, drowning or murder since June 7. Seven were murdered, nine died in car crashes, and three drowned, nearly equaling the total drowning deaths in the previous 17 years.
Experts have given different explanations. Some attribute the three drowning deaths to the weather allowing for more outdoor swimming opportunities. Some law enforcement officials said drugs and gangs are to blame.
Tribune Chronicle file photos
July 3: A truck for JD Sealcoat is hoisted by a tow truck after an accident on Tibbetts-Wick Road in Liberty that claimed the life of David A. Johngrass. Johngrass, of Lowellville, swerved and lost control of the asphalt-hauling truck and died despite wearing a seatbelt.
Those who died came from a variety of backgrounds. The incidents have taken place throughout the county and the ages range from a 12-year-old drowning victim to a 62-year-old driver whose pickup truck was struck head-on by a semi truck. Some had long criminal histories; one was a beloved firefighter.
The deadly events occurred around the clock in all three categories.
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk said he's never seen a bigger spike in unexpected deaths since becoming coroner in 1998. Germaniuk said he believes the deaths boil down to a lack of common sense.
Timeline of latest deaths
July 14: Zeboney A. Bess, 17, of Kenwood Street S.W., Warren, was shot in the head about 10 p.m. near 2057 Hamilton St. S.W.
July 13: Mark Goodrich Jr., 12, of Sharon, Pa., drowned in the Shenango River.
July 11: The body of former Warren and Bazetta resident Jamaul Jones, 28, was found in Warren Township in a field on Dover Avenue S.W.
July 10: Four masked men gunned down Dshawn Scott, 36, of Taylor, Mich., at about 1 a.m. on Charles Avenue, Warren.
July 7: Eli Miller, 21, of Middlefield, drowned in the Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
July 7: Bruce Banks, 17, of Liberty died at St. Elizabeth Health Center, after swimming in a Liberty pool.
July 6: Robert Brazzon, 55, shot and killed four people at about noon in Newton Falls, before killing himself.
July 5: Robert Lucarell, 62, of Hubbard, died in a crash on Interstate 80.
July 3: David A. Johngrass, 33, of Lowellville, died after he swerved on Tibbetts Wick Road in Liberty.
July 2: Antonio Donatelli, of Warren, missed a curve at on North Road and crashed into a tree.
June 26: Daniel H. Minchoff, 54, and Debora L. Roberts, 50, both of Greenville, Pa., were pronounced dead at the intersection of state routes 7 and 82.
June 17: Tina Freeman, 23, of Cortland, was thrown from the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle on state Route 45 in Bristol.
June 16: Robert A. Gumina, 48, of Niles, died after he crashed his 2005 Ford F-150 truck at about 10:30 p.m. on Main Avenue in Warren Township.
June 7: Robert S. Jones, 42, of Vienna, died in a crash on Niles Vienna Road.
June 7: Warren firefighter Marc Titus, 46, of Cortland, died when his 2006 Yamaha Road Star ran into an overturned dump truck about 10 p.m. on state Route 11. Titus was not wearing a helmet.
''All of the sudden we tend to slack off and are not attentive,'' Germaniuk said. ''We drink one more for the road and take a 30-mile-per-hour curve at 50. And when people enter the high-risk environment of drugs, there are increased risks. It boils down to risk.''
Germaniuk said the deadliest incident, the quadruple murder-suicide in Newton Falls, was an aberration. He also said two of the three other murders in Warren and Warren Township were apparently drug-related, which creates inherent risks.
''I can't remember the last time a cupcake salesman was shot over cupcakes,'' Germaniuk said. ''Depending on the materials you're dealing with, the risk factor increases.''
The seven murder victims have been killed since the July 6. The Newton Falls massacre, in which Robert Brazzon, 55, killed his live-in girlfriend then went a block away and killed his ex-brother-in-law, his wife and her 15-year-old son in front of the couple's 5-year-old son, was the deadliest killing spree in recent Trumbull County history.
Police found Brazzon, who fatally shot himself in the Newton Township Cemetery about four hours after the murders, possessed thousands of prescription pills, dozens of guns and 34 homemade explosives inside his home and garage. Investigators have not been able to determine a motive for the killing.
Two days later, 28-year-old Jamaul Jones, went to what police said was a meeting in the 1300 block of Meadowbrook Avenue S.E. in Warren. He wasn't found until three days later when a Dover Avenue S.E. resident followed her dog to his body in a Warren Township field, where it had been rotting for several days.
Jones' death was ruled a homicide by multiple gunshot wounds. Police described the killing as drug and robbery related.
About 12 hours after Jones went missing, four masked men ransacked a Charles Avenue home, threatened a woman there at gunpoint and used her as bait to draw out Dshawn Scott from his 341 Charles St. S.E. home. Once he answered the door, the girl was freed and the four men fired at least 11 shots, killing Scott, a Taylor, Mich. resident.
Police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Cole said he and Warren Township investigators have ruled out any links between the two killings.
Last Saturday, the latest murder victim, Zeboney A. Bess, 17, was fatally shot in the head while walking near 2057 Hamilton St. S.W., less than a half-mile from her home. Family members said she was on the phone feuding with an older man she was involved with when she was killed.
Several veteran law enforcement officials and investigators said they never remember a seven-day span in which seven people were murdered.
''It's society, it's where we live,'' said Warren Police Chief Tim Bowers after a meeting Thursday with federal law enforcement officials. ''Lots of people with guns. Lots of people that don't understand they can't have everything they want right now. There are lots and lots of reasons why this happens. It's surely not unique to Warren, Ohio.''
FATAL CAR ACCIDENTS
Experts agree the other unexpected deaths - drowning and car crashes - are exponentially more preventable.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Warren Post Commander Lt. Brian Holt said the recent spike in traffic fatalities caused the patrol to adopt a zero-tolerance enforcement policy to try and curb dangerous driving after nine people died in car crashes from June 7 to July 5. Three people died in separate fatal crashes on July 2, 3 and 5. Two people were killed in one crash June 26 at the intersection of state routes 7 and 82 in Brookfield in which a motorcycle collided with a semi-truck, killing Daniel H. Minchoff, 54, and Debora L. Roberts, 50, both of Greenville, Pa.
Holt said they've studied all eight fatal crashes, as they have for all 17 fatal accidents in 2012, a 75 percent increase over the same time frame last year. He said no pattern has emerged.
Holt said contributing factors in the eight recent fatal crashes are similar for every fatal crash this year, meaning alcohol, speed and a lack of seatbelt wearing were contributors in most of the deaths.
''We would cut our deaths in at least half if people would wear seatbelts and not drive while impaired,'' Holt said. ''We would only have seven fatals this year if that happened.''
Of the eight fatal crashes, four involved alcohol and authorities are waiting autopsies on the other four to see if alcohol was a factor.
Of the nine who died, three were not wearing seatbelts and the four motorcyclists were not wearing helmets.
Holt said only two crash victims since June 7 - Robert Lucarell, 62, of Hubbard, and David A. Johngrass, 33, of Lowellville - were wearing seatbelts at the time of their fatal accident. Three others were not wearing seatbelts and the remaining four were riding a motorcycle without helmets, including firefighter Marc Titus, who was killed June 7 when his 2006 Yamaha Road Star ran into a overturned dump truck on state Route 11.
Titus, 46, was a 21-year veteran of the fire department and was the president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 204 for the past eight years.
''This is extremely uncommon and from where I sit it's unacceptable,'' Holt said. ''The reality is people are going to die in traffic. But when there's a spike like this and we have 75 percent more people that died this year in Trumbull County compared with the same time last year, it definitely raises concerns.''
Since 1994 only four people have drowned in Trumbull County, according to Tribune Chronicle archives, including a 5-year-old girl who drowned in Willow Lake in June 2011.
This year three people have drowned, all in a six-day span, including two on one day in separate incidents.
Those two - Eli Miller, 21, of Middlefield, and Bruce Banks, 17, of Liberty - drowned July 7; Miller in Mosquito Creek and Banks in the outdoor pool at the Logan Swim and Tennis Club after he and four others jumped the fence surrounding the pool in the early morning hours.
The other victim, 12-year-old Mark Goodrich Jr., of Sharon, Pa., drowned in the Shenango River in Brookfield July 13.
Coroners in Mahoning, Trumbull and Mercer counties all ruled the respective deaths as accidental.
Germaniuk said people should not swim without a floatation device if they are weak swimmers, which he said was likely the case in some of the drowning incidents.
''People need to know where their children are,'' Germanuik said. ''If you can't swim, use a personal flotation device. You can get those relatively cheap.''
There have only been three other drowning deaths in Trumbull County in the 17 years before 2011, including an 11-year stretch in which no one drowned.
In 1997, two people, a 22-month old in Lordstown and a 3-year-old in Howland, died in a two-month span.
Mahoning County Coroner Dr. Joseph Orr, who performed Banks' autopsy, said the death rate in the Mahoning Valley, over the course of time, will even out.
''It just happens to be an up-tick at this point in time,'' Orr said. ''Hopefully that won't be the case for the rest of the year.''