Testimony continues for fourth day in trial of final suspect in Rowan Sweeney murder
The fourth day of testimony is now underway in the trial of the final suspect in the murder of a four-year-old Struthers boy in a deadly robbery and home invasion back in 2020.
Tuesday marks the fourth day of testimony in the trial of 21-year-old Brandon Crump, who is accused of being the triggerman in the murder of four-year-old Rowan Sweeney in September of 2020 just two weeks before his birthday.
Day four began with an argument over whether or not evidence from an unrelated incident less than a month before the murder on Ravenwood Avenue in Youngstown with shell casings from the same weapon should be considered in this case.
The defense went first arguing that this case is not relevant to the trial because the two scenes have nothing to do with each other, but the prosecution argues that it is relevant because it involves the same weapon and the same action.
"We're not saying he shot a gun, we're not saying he had a gun. What we are saying is that his DNA was at the scene one month prior," Prosecutor Mike Yacovone said.
Judge Anthony D'Apolito ruled that this evidence would be admissible in this case stating this does not imply that Crump shot the gun or committed a crime.
Following the argument and a brief break, the trial resumed with testimony from Melissa Wilhelm, who is a forensic scientist in BCI who analyzes DNA samples.
Wilhelm analyzed multiple items including clothing, as well as other items from co-defendant Kimonie Bryant. Other DNA samples were collected from victims Yarnell Green, Cassandra Marsicola and Sweeney, as well as co-defendant Andre McCoy.
Shoes from Bryant were tested for potential bloodstains, but none were found. Other clothing collected from Bryant included jeans, a t-shirt, a tank top and a face mask. No further testing was done.
Wilhelm testified that no blood was identified on any of these clothing items as well.
Wilhelm further testified that she analyzed a pair of shoes found in a car. These shoes had a stain that was presumably positive for blood. Wilhelm could not determine whose DNA was on these shoes.
Wilhelm also analyzed two jackets that were found at Bryant's home including a Nike jacket and Calvin Klein coat. No blood was found on either of these items. No further testing was done.
The defense pressed Wilhelm stating that these items were not tested until two days after the murder and that the blood could have been washed off, but DNA could never be washed off.
Wilhelm testified that the two jackets were not associated with a specific individual and there was no request from the submitting agency for a DNA test on them.
Samples were collected from bullets and shell casings on the scene, but Wilhelm testified that BCI did not perform the DNA analysis on these items.
The next witness called was Mark Crissman, who is a retired Youngstown police officer. Crissman was still employed by the police department at the time of the murder when he worked in evidence collection.
Crissman testified about the Ravenwood incident mentioned above. Four shell casings and one black right hand glove were collected from the scene.
The defense brought up a red cell phone that was also found at the scene. Crissman testified that this was collected as well.
Following this, Andrew Chappell, a forensic scientist with BCI took the stand to testify. Among the items analyzed were four 45 caliber shell casings. The four casings were all fired from the same weapon according to Chappell's testimony.
When pressed by the defense, Chappell explained that if shots were fired from two weapons of the same type and caliber, you would still be able to tell which weapon each shot came from based on the ballistic markings.
After a brief break, the trial resumed with testimony from Kevin Kramer, who is another forensic scientist for BCI. He had examined shell casings connected to Rowan's murder.
Kramer's testimony revealed that he concluded that the shell casings from Rowan's murder were fired by the same firearm as the ones from the Ravenwood incident.
Kramer testified that he came to this conclusion from analyzing ballistic markings and individual characteristics of the casings.
However, Kramer testified that the results of all six bullets from the scene were inconclusive.
During a cross-examination Kramer revealed that he took all four shell casings from the Ravenwood scene and compared them to only two of the casings from the scene of the murder.
After a lunch break, the court reconvened for the next testimony from another forensic scientist with BCI.
The forensic scientist provided further testimony on the DNA results of 45 caliber shell casings. She testified that the DNA results on those casings were unclear.
She also conducted a DNA test on the singular black glove from the Ravenwood scene and testified that the DNA results from that were consistent with Crump's DNA.
Up next to the stand was Captain Matthew Haus with the Struthers Police Department. He was involved with the investigation of the murder. Captain Haus testified that the Mahoning Valley Homicide Task Force also assisted in the investigation.
Captain Haus testified that he went to the hospital to speak with the victims including Marsicola along with Rowan's mother Alexis Schneider. Haus testified that both described the gunman as a tall, slim Black male in a red jacket wearing a hood.
Captain Haus testified that he was involved with showing witnesses lineups of potential suspects in this case. This list was based on a number of tips provided regarding potential suspects.
Sections of Marsicola's testimony consisted of accusations that police were "drilling her" to identify a suspect and made her feel like she wasn't able to say she didn't recognize the suspect or know who the gunman was.
Further testimony revealed that initially, Schneider could not identify the suspect from the first lineup. Later, Captain Haus showed a second lineup where both Marsicola and Schneider identified Bryant as the gunman.
Captain Haus testified that Schneider did not identify Bryant through a photo array, but identified him when she was shown a picture of him after he was arrested.
However, testimony from both revealed that Schneider now believes the gunman to be Crump after she was shown a photo of him a few weeks later and Marsicola testified that she could not say with confidence who the gunman was.
Further testimony revealed that Marsicola was not consistent with her identification of Bryant. Cross-examination revealed Marsicola was inconsistent with comments about Bryant's eyes, as well as the clothes the gunman was wearing.
In his testimony, Captain Haus explained that pressure was due in part to Marsicola not being completely honest and deleting messages between her and McCoy that could have allowed the investigation to move faster.
Captain Haus testified that Marsicola initially identified a suspect who was completely unrelated to the case with 60% confidence that he was the gunman. Schneider was not shown this lineup due to her condition at the time.
During a cross-examination, Captain Haus testified that during the first lineup, he was not present, but had "no reason to believe" he put any pressure on Marsicola to identify anyone.
The prosecution raised the argument that while Haus didn't feel like he put pressure on Marsicola, he has no way of knowing how Marsicola herself felt when asked to identify a suspect. Haus conceded to this point.
The defense fired back asking if he or anyone else had yelled at Marsicola or if Marsicola accused any other officers of putting this pressure on her. Haus testified that he was not there during the presentation of the lineup and did not listen to any audio of it.
Haus did testify that he did have to get more assertive with her about withholding information from police, but never when asking her to identify a suspect.
The defense went on to say that no matter what, Marsicola still identified Bryant, but afterwards said, "I don't know who the f**k it was. You figure it out."
The cross-examination further revealed that Schneider had "an emotional reaction" when she was shown Bryant's photo.
Captain Haus testified after Bryant turned himself in, he conducted an interview with him where a few names came up including his girlfriend and someone by the name of "B Thump."
Earlier testimony established "B Thump" as a nickname for Crump. Haus testified that further investigation revealed that "B Thump" as well as "Brandon McDowell" were names traced back to Crump.
Captain Haus testified that when Bryant's jackets were seized, there was no immediate reason to believe either was the red jacket used in the murder.
While investigating Crump, Captain Haus testified that he met with an informant who was close with Bryant. This informant confirmed of certain pieces of information including the vehicle used in the murder.
Captain Haus went on to testify about two cell phones found at Crump's residence while serving a search warrant at his home. One of those phones belonged to Crump and the other belonged to his girlfriend.
Cross-examination revealed a total of five phones were seized from Crump's residence. Captain Haus testified only one of those phones rang when he dialed the number provided for Crump. Testimony also revealed that another one of the phones had a picture of Crump as the screensaver.
Further communication with Youngstown detective revealed Crump's DNA on the glove and the shell casings at the Ravenwood scene matching the weapon used in the murder.
Captain Haus testified to listening to the jail calls of Crump as well which revealed a conversation between Crump and his girlfriend where he told her to delete his and her Facebook accounts.
According to Haus's testimony, Crump's girlfriend, identified as Odyssey Butler Reed has since been charged with Tampering With Records for following through with this request.
During the cross-examination, a video shown to the court on Monday taken shortly after the murder of a hand with a red sleeve spreading out cash was brought up.
Captain Haus testified that he did not check to verify how much money was shown in that video and if it matched up with the description of the amount of money taken in the robbery.
The prosecution also brought up that when a weapon is used in a crime, the offender would often get rid of it. Previous testimony revealed that a gun matching the description of the murder weapon was found at a home connected to Bryant.
Testimony began on Thursday, February 8 with testimony from Rowan's mother Alexis Schneider and her friend Cassandra Marsicola who was with her at the time of the murder. Thursday also saw testimony from two law enforcement agents who had responded to the scene.
Day two saw testimony from BCI agents and a DNA expert, as well as testimony from victim and co-defendant Andre McCoy, who had planned the robbery, but was shot in the face during the home invasion.
Day three's testimony came from more BCI agents, as well as other agencies who had investigated the locations of Crump and co-defendant Kimonie Bryant on the night of the murder.
In-depth details of all of these testimonies can be found in our related coverage below.
Also check back to this story throughout the day for the latest updates on day four.