Suspects could be tried as adults for murder of Youngstown 14-year-old
In a rare Sunday court hearing Mahoning Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick opened the court doors. The hearing was to determine if there is enough evidence to bind the case over for trial in an adult court of law.
Sunday, April 30th 2023, 7:38 PM EDT
In a rare Sunday court hearing Mahoning Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick opened the court doors.
The hearing was to determine if there is enough evidence to bind the case over for trial in an adult court of law.
That means either or both teens could be tried as adults in the criminal justice system.
Fourteen-year-old Landon Lockhart was reported missing in November 2021 by his mom.
His body was found in January 2022 about three months later in a wooded area in Youngstown off North Truesdale Avenue.
The schedules of three busy defense attorneys, representing three separate teens, would have meant delaying this hearing until summer so the judge thought of this solution.
The victim's family packed one side of the courtroom while the families of the accused packed the other side of the courtroom.
Two of the teens accused of aggravated murder 17-year-old defendants one and two looked relaxed in court during a break. The two who sat next to each other joked with an officer in the court about that officer's support for the Cleveland Browns.
A third teen criminally charged in connection with the murder testified in court against the two, one his very good friend in the past. He looked nervous. That witness testified the 2nd defendant is innocent of the murder, and that the first defendant shot the victim.
Prosecutor Anissa Modarelli asked who he was driving around with the night of the murders.
The teen testified that Landon was driving when they drove to a home on Youngstown's east side.
There were four people in the vehicle.
The witness, who is also suspect number three told the court that he remained in the car while his friends and Lockhart, who was his friend's friend, went inside.
Minutes later he heard shots fired, then two of his friends came back to the car without Lockhart.
The witness testified that when his friends defendants one and two returned to the car both had guns in their hands.
The 3rd suspect kept repeating when asked, that the person who did the shooting was defendant number one.
But upon cross-examination, Attorney John Shultz asked the witness who is also defendant number 3 if he saw his client pull the trigger and shoot Lockhart.
The answer was no.
He and Attorney Tony Meranto got the witness to admit he had heard from other people on the street.
The witness also testified he was not inside the house and never saw who shot the victim.
If the suspect/witness testifies truthfully, the state agrees not to put him on trial in the adult criminal justice system.
A detective at the time of the investigation who is now a Lieutenant with Youngstown Police Department, Robert Gentile, tells the court that an informant told police where the body could be found.
Lt. Gentile testified there were people the defendants confided in telling who caused the death of Lockhart.
Those people were not called as witnesses today.
That informant led police to where Lockhart's body was found with a ski mask and smartwatch.
Lt. Gentile testified there was no DNA evidence at the scene. But after he was questioned by the prosecutor Officer Gentile explained it's common to not have DNA left behind at crime scenes.
After testimony and cross-examination, Judge Dellick explained what the burden of proof is in a probable cause hearing.
Dellick explained probable cause can be based on hearsay and is based on very low standards.
Judge Dellick is expected to make her decision soon.