Seventy percent to 80 percent of the two victims' bodies were burned.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Jermaine McKinney made Rebecca Cliburn die in "agony and pain" last December -- then smoked cigarettes as he waited for his second murder victim to arrive, the Trumbull County prosecutor says.
Prosecutor Dennis Watkins made his opening statement to jurors Tuesday in McKinney's double-murder trial in common pleas court. "You're going to see contusions and lacerations. You're going to see fractured skulls," Watkins said.
"Fractured skulls with bleeding, where this poor woman died in agony and pain through being terrorized -- by being tied up with wire, with a sheet and being beaten just after he made love," the prosecutor said.
"And a complete stranger came home within an hour and [McKinney] went through step by step in planning a scheme to get away with murder," he said.
Photographs taken at the scene by investigators showing bruises, cuts and isolated body parts are among the exhibits expected to be shown during testimony today.
If convicted of killing Cliburn and her mother, Wanda Rollyson, last December in Rollyson's Newton Township home, McKinney could face the death penalty.
The agony Cliburn suffered is one of several aggravating circumstances Watkins said the evidence will prove. Proof of such aggravating circumstances is required to show that a defendant deserves the death penalty.
Watkins said McKinney, a 26-year-old former Girard and Youngstown man who liked to watch the television show "CSI," which is about solving crimes, made several mistakes that placed crucial evidence in the hands of police.
The prosecutor also made the following statements:
Despite McKinney's concern about removing his cigarette butts from the house, one was left behind that contained his DNA.
Although McKinney burned 70 percent to 80 percent of his victims' bodies, he left behind a lot of boot-marked bloodstains on the basement floor.
Although he tried to put his blood- and sweat-soaked boots in McKelvey Lake on Youngstown's East Side, the boots didn't sink through the ice and were easily retrieved a short time later.
During opening statements, Akron defense attorney Larry Smith said the prosecution's primary evidence -- the testimony of three women -- is highly suspect because all three are dependent upon the prosecution for their own punishment.
Two of the women -- Keyatta J. Riley Hines and Jazzmine McIver, both of Warren -- signed an agreement when they accepted plea bargains in January that they would allow the prosecution to be the "sole arbiter" of their cooperation in the case.
The third woman is Amy Corll of Hubbard, a former girlfriend of McKinney's, who authorities said teamed up with McIver, Riley Hines and McKinney the night of the slayings.
Riley Hines said she participated in the planning for a robbery at Rollyson's house and later heard from McKinney that he had beaten Cliburn with a crowbar and shot Rollyson twice in the head.
McIver said she participated in the effort to dispose of evidence in Youngstown. Smith added that the rest of the case will rest on forensic evidence. "Forensic evidence doesn't tell the whole story," Smith said.
"At the end of the day, Keyatta Riley Hines, Jazzmine McIver and Amy Corll cannot be believed," Smith said, including the third woman who has implicated McKinney in the killings.
Smith said that after police interviewed Riley Hines on Dec. 29, all other evidence was collected "to dovetail with what she testified to." He called the prosecution's efforts after that a "rush to judgment" spurred on by the public's desire to see someone charged with the slayings.
"So look for what doesn't come in" as evidence: No bullet and no shell casings, Smith said.
On her 911 call, Cliburn's daughter, Melissa Barry of Austintown, pointed to her brother, Nathan, and Cliburn as the people she would suspect of having hurt her grandmother, Smith said. She didn't know at the time her mother also was also dead. Smith said police also ignored possible suspects.
In her testimony later, Barry tearfully described the close relationship she had with her grandmother and how she talked with her on the telephone two to three times per day. Barry was the one who became concerned about Rollyson on Dec. 21 and drove to her home Dec. 22 to alert authorities that something was wrong in the house.
Barry explained that she had taken over the parenting responsibilities from her mother for her 11-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother in the months before the slayings because her mother was not able to properly care for them.
Her brother and mother took hundreds of dollars every day from her grandmother to feed their drug addictions, Barry added.
Frank Tomaino, the Newton Township police chief, testified he arrived at the house after Barry's 911 call. He said after he went inside, he discovered smoke and burned bodies in the basement.
"This was probably the most gruesome case I've been on in 31 years," Tomaino said.
Detective Sgt. Peter Pizzulo, the lead detective in the case, began his testimony late in the day and described pools of blood in two places in the basement that suggest the women were killed there and dragged about 20 feet to a furnace room and set on fire.
Their burned remains, along with remnants of clothing, jewelry, wire and two empty deck stain cans were found there beside an empty 275-gallon fuel oil tank, Pizzulo said.