WARREN - The triggerman in a 2009 Liberty Township murder that claimed the lives of a mother and daughter pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to 19 years behind bars. That also will lead to sentences over the next few months for four other co-defendants in the case.
Assistant county prosecutor Chris Becker admitted that authorities lacked forensic evidence against Melvin Turner, 39, the triggerman who still must serve out the last few months of an unrelated 36-month federal prison sentence in Maryland before serving the 19 years in Ohio.
Turner didn't even start serving the federal sentence for embezzling $220,000 worth of health care benefits until after the murders of Wilneice Green, 28, and her daughter, Ja'Brayasia Green, 13, in their 3022 Northgate Drive home on Nov. 15, 2009.
''We (are) as sure as we can be (that) we have the triggerman based on polygraphs from the four other co-defendants in the case. The problem is without the murder weapon, fingerprints and DNA, we're left with the false and misleading information the co-defendants gave to Liberty police and the grand jury,'' Becker said.
He said it would have been difficult to try the case even though the other co-defendants agreed to cooperate in the case against Turner.
Turner said nothing to Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Wyatt McKay, who handed down the agreed-to sentence between Becker, assistant county prosecutor Gabe Wildman and attorneys Matt Pentz and Dave Rouzzo with the Public Defenders Office. The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated burglary, all with a firearm specification, tampering with evidence and having weapons under disability.
Chavontea Sherman, left, family to the victims, and Tameika Green, sister and aunt to victims Wilneice Green and Ja’Brayasia Green, listen as Melvin Turner pleads guilty in the murder case on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by R. Michael Semple
''I'm not happy with the sentence, but he's off the streets. I hope he remembers who he took from me. My sister was my best friend. My niece didn't deserve this. Everybody ain't your friend,'' said Tameika Green, sister of Wilneice Green and aunt of Ja'Brayasia.
She told McKay she is left caring for four other children of her sister. ''I can't fill the shoes of their mother. I'm left with pain and sorrow beyond belief,'' Green said, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
It was almost two years ago that Marquese Floyd, 28, of Youngstown, pleaded guilty to two counts of complicity to involuntary manslaughter, aggravated burglary with firearm specifications and tampering with evidence.
He is expected to be sentenced to 23 years in prison and could have shaved that sentence to 21 years, but was never able to furnish Liberty detectives with the assault rifle used as the murder weapon, which along with other evidence is presumed to be in McKelvey Lake in Youngstown. He remains in jail awaiting sentencing.
Turner, Floyd and another man went inside the house in Liberty while two women, also co-defendants, waited outside.
Appollonia Baker, 28, of Youngstown, who drove the group to the home, was expected to receive a sentence of about six years depending on her cooperation, according to her plea deal made about three years ago. She pleaded guilty to complicity to involuntary manslaughter, complicity to aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence. She, like the others, also agreed to take polygraph exams to confirm her role in the crime.
Denise Jackson, 28, was given roughly the same deal and stands to serve about 13 years under terms of her deal, according to Becker.
James Christian, 23, who entered the house with Turner and Floyd, stands to serve about 18 years, according to Becker.
Christian was one of the gunmen in the murder plot that investigators believe targeted the now-deceased Semmie Shorter, 38, who eluded the attack that night.
According to a police report, Shorter was accused of molesting a young female relative of Jackson's in the home on the morning of Nov. 15, 2009. Jackson, according to a court affidavit, spoke to members of the conspiracy, telling them that Shorter needed to "pay for what he did."
Wilneice and Ja'Brayasia were shot in the attack. According to a court affidavit, Turner, using the assault rifle, was the triggerman in each murder. Wilneice had apparently pleaded for the lives of her children before being shot. Ja'Brayasia, according to the affidavit, attempted to run out the door. Turner allegedly told Christian to shoot her, but Christian did not. Turner pushed the girl to the floor and shot her, the affidavit alleges.
Floyd, according to additional allegations in the affidavit, was perplexed by the deaths, wondering why the two were shot.
Shorter, according to the Mahoning County Coroner's Office, died in March of 2010 after shooting himself in the head in Youngstown.
Besides the missing gun, most of the tampering charges the defendants face stem from the suspects destroying their clothing and gloves they used in the crime.