Man indicted in killing of 4-year-old boy in Struthers
YOUNGSTOWN — Kimonie D. Bryant of Struthers could get the death penalty if he is convicted of aggravated murder in the Sept. 21 shooting death of 4-year-old Rowan Sweeney, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said Thursday.
A county grand jury indicted Bryant, 24, Thursday on aggravated murder and four specifications that would make Bryant eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.
It’s the first time in more than four years that someone has been indicted on death-penalty level charges in Mahoning County.
Bryant is accused of walking in the front door of the Perry Street home in Struthers where Rowan, his mother, Alexis Schneider, 22, and Yarnell Green Jr., 30, were living.
Bryant immediately shot Andre McCoy, 20, in the head, Gains said at a news conference. He and McCoy were sending text messages to each other just prior to the shootings, according to court documents. In one text, McCoy told Bryant, “Come up steps open door.”
Bryant then shot Green when Green “jumped up” from the same couch on which McCoy was sitting and tried to flee. Bryant then shot Green “several more times as he lay on the floor,” Gains said.
Schneider and Rowan were on a couch on the opposite wall from McCoy. Rowan was asleep, and his legs were on his mother’s lap. It was about 2 a.m.
Police have said Rowan’s mother covered him and begged Bryant not to shoot him.
Bryant “then shot young Rowan twice in the head as well as his mother,” Gains said. “It is unclear which victim was shot first,” he said. “Ms. Schneider suffered a gunshot wound to the collar bone-breast area.”
AMOUNT OF CASH
Gains’ prepared remarks suggested that a large amount of cash may have been a reason for Bryant’s actions.
Gains said it was “well known that Green, who was self employed as a barber, had recently received a check” for several thousand dollars in federal pandemic unemployment assistance.
“Approximately $5,000 in cash remaining from the check was on the coffee table, which was located between the two couches in the living room,” Gains said.
After Bryant fled from the home, the cash on the coffee table was gone. One of the victims called 911.
Schneider, Green and Cassandra Marsicola, 20, of Campbell, were all shot, but they are all expected to survive. McCoy is in the hospital in critical but stable condition, Gains said.
In addition to the charges related to Rowan’s death, Bryant, of Struthers, also was indicted on four counts of attempted murder and four counts of felonious assault in the shootings of the four adults.
Bryant also was indicted on aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery charges.
The death penalty is a possibility for Bryant, but he also could get life in prison without any possibility of parole and up to an additional 84 years in prison, if convicted, Gains said.
The specifications that make the death penalty possible are that Bryant allegedly killed a person under age 13, killed or attempted to kill two or more people, and killed while committing aggravated burglary and / or aggravated robbery.
Bryant could get the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder and any one of those specifications, Gains said.
Gains said the grand jury decides whether someone should be indicted on death penalty specifications. But when asked what made this case worthy of the death penalty, Gains said: “I would say that the killing of a 4-year-old deserves a penalty that is consistent with that type of heinous offense.”
After learning of Bryant’s indictment, David Sweeney, Rowan’s father, expressed gratitude to law enforcement for their investigation.
“I am glad to see that law enforcement is acting strongly to ensure justice is served,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. “We love and miss you so deeply, Rowan.”
He also addressed this question to Bryant: “What did Rowan do to you? Why my baby? Now I’m supposed to go on in life without my son? This was senseless and heinous.”
Rowan’s calling hours will be 3 to 6 p.m. Monday at the Davidson-Becker Funeral Home in Struthers. A private memorial service will be held for the family on Tuesday.
Bryant will be arraigned 9 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
He remains in the Mahoning County jail without eligibility to make bond after turning himself in to the U.S. Marshals Service about 8 p.m. Sept. 21.
LAST CAPITAL CASE
The last death penalty case was that of Lance Hundley, who was sentenced to death in 2018 after he murdered disabled woman Erika Huff in her Youngstown home, tried to kill Huff’s mother and set them both on fire in November 2015. The Ohio Supreme Court in July affirmed Huff’s conviction and sentence.
In the days after the Struthers shootings, the community has supported Rowan’s family.
Area residents have put red lights, ribbons and bows on display in the child’s memory. Struthers residents, Rowan’s family and others have also attached “Justice for Rowan” and “Rowan” signs to the Lowellville Road Bridge, which is near Perry Street. A park in Rowan’s honor is being planned.
Gains credited the work of the Struthers Police Department and officers from several other departments that worked on the case as part of the Mahoning County Homicide Task Force. Other agencies involved are Campbell, Poland Township, Springfield, Canfield, Mahoning County Sheriff’s office and coroner’s office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Youngstown and Struthers law departments.