Focus on old girlfriend turned murder case
A phone tip from a Liberty restaurant led investigators to a key witness.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- In the first five days of investigation into the killings of Wanda Rollyson and Rebecca Cliburn, there was a dramatic turn on Dec. 27 when investigators learned the name of Amy Corll.
Sgt. Peter Pizzulo of the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department, spending his second day on the witness stand today, explained that the investigation at that point changed its focus to a former girlfriend of Jermaine McKinney, the man on trial for the killings.
Pizzulo said authorities were initially looking into leads provided by Melissa Barry of Austintown, Cliburn's daughter, that the killings might have been done by Barry's brother, Nathan Vargo; or a drug dealer who had left Cliburn a threatening phone message.
But on Dec. 27, investigators received a phone call from someone working at a restaurant in Liberty Township alerting them to the possible involvement of Amy Corll of Hubbard in the crime.
The next day investigators also received Corll's name from Western Union, a company that facilitates money transfers, saying Corll's identification was used the night of the deaths in an attempt to secure cash from Rollyson's debit card.
In the days that followed, investigators interviewed Corll and two other women, who said that McKinney killed Rollyson and Cliburn in Rollyson's Newton Township home -- and that they had assisted him before and after the crime.
On cross examination, defense attorney Donald Malarcik of Akron played a recording of a telephone call in which a man described as a drug dealer threatened to kill Rollyson, Cliburn and one of Cliburn's two sons.
Malarcik asked Pizzulo whether he gathered information about the man in the recording, such as who his associates were.
Pizzulo said he wasn't sure of all the investigating done on the man. That's because other investigators worked that part of the case. But what was learned is that the man had been in Trumbull County jail since well before the Dec. 21 killings and therefore could not have committed them.
Pizzulo explained that detectives started to learn about Corll, the two other women and McKinney a couple days after they learned about the threatening phone call -- and believed the McKinney leads were more relevant.
Malarcik also asked Pizzulo to confirm that agents had not gathered any fingerprints inside the home, had not found any bullets or bullet casings or found any blood splatters confirming that someone had been shot.
Pizzulo said investigators decided not to try to gather fingerprints because fingerprints are usually not available in crime scenes involving fires.