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Warren man answers to murder charge

Pleads not guilty, ordered held on $1M bond

WARREN — The 23-year-old Warren defendant in orange coveralls was talkative to Trumbull County deputies as they brought him up to an empty common pleas courtroom Thursday morning for his arraignment on a murder charge.

In addition to asking a legal question of the lawmen, Edward J. Culler, of 3071 Lodwick Drive, commented about his legal situation.

“I wish I was on your side of the law,” said the man charged in the June 26 shooting death of 25-year-old Taryn T. Simmons, of Boardman, outside an apartment in northwest Warren’s River Run complex.

A few minutes later, Culler stood by his lawyer Mary Ellen Ditchey to plead not guilty to a first-degree murder charge with a firearm specification. Common Pleas Judge Peter J. Kontos told Culler his case has been assigned to Judge Andrew D. Logan’s court, with a pretrial hearing set there July 21.

In addition, Kontos set bond at $1 million, which, according to Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker, is the standard for cases of this type. Becker said if convicted, Culler could face life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 18 years because of the three-year mandatory gun specification.

Culler was indicted Wednesday by a county grand jury that heard testimony from two witnesses.

Officers were called to the Lodwick Drive apartment at 8:42 p.m. June 26, according to a Warren police report. Officers found the victim unresponsive, and they began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. However, EMS workers arrived and pronounced Simmons dead.

The woman died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Trumbull County Coroner’s office, which ruled the death a homicide.

Police said witnesses told them two women were arguing outside the apartment, and Culler intervened just before gunshots were heard. Culler fled, but police arrested him several hours later. A police captain said the quick arrest was the result of witness cooperation.

Simmons and Culler have a child together, and there were previous domestic incidents involving the two, according to detectives. Municipal Judge Terry Ivanchak on June 2 had ordered Culler not to have contact with Simmons after putting the man on probation for a disorderly conduct conviction, according to court records.

After the hearing Thursday, Becker said this case is the 11th of 12 homicides for the city of Warren halfway through 2020. No. 12 was Monday’s shooting death of Robert Johnson, 26, at Quinby Park.

Becker said the number is becoming a growing concern for the entire community, and he said he has it on “good authority” that the record for Warren homicides in a year is 17.

“Let’s hope and pray we don’t get any more,” Becker said. “It’s a tragedy, even to those who are being prosecuted. But I don’t have a magic answer on how to solve this problem.”

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