Accomplice: Beshara ran over Niles woman
The accomplice testified as part of a plea agreement.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Benjamin Beshara ran over Marilyn Guthrie of Niles with her own car on the morning of her death, an admitted accomplice told the jury in Beshara's trial.
Anthony D. Johnson, 18, of Steel Street, testified Monday in the trial before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. If convicted in the kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated murder of Guthrie, Beshara, 33, faces 26 years in prison to life without parole.
The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for about 80 minutes Monday afternoon and will resume at 9 a.m. today.
Guthrie died the morning of July 10, 2005, in St. Elizabeth Health Center, about an hour after being run over, and the coroner ruled her death a homicide due to injuries from a blunt impact to her head. An autopsy found she also suffered multiple other injuries, including hip, leg and rib fractures.
Johnson pleaded guilty in November to kidnapping, aggravated robbery and the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, and the prosecution recommended a 10-year prison sentence for him.
In his plea agreement, Johnson, who awaits sentencing, agreed to testify against Beshara. Johnson was originally charged with aggravated murder.
Two other accomplices, Josiah Smith and Coryon Bertram, both 15, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in county juvenile court and agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify against Beshara.
They were sentenced to detention by the Ohio Department of Youth Services for a minimum of one year and a maximum of time remaining until their 21st birthdays.
Appearing in court in an orange jail uniform, Johnson told the jury that he, Smith and Bertram were driven from Youngstown's West Side, where they lived, by a man who was not charged in the crimes to the Carnegie Arms Apartments in Niles, where Guthrie lived, and that Bertram had the directions to the apartment complex.
When they arrived at the complex, Beshara, who was Guthrie's neighbor, came out to meet them, then went back inside, later emerging with Guthrie, Johnson testified.
Beshara had told his accomplices he'd lure her out of her apartment for the robbery by saying he needed a ride to a store to get his ailing father's medication, Martin P. Desmond, assistant county prosecutor, had said in his opening statement in the trial.
When Guthrie emerged, Bertram rushed up to her and hit her, and Beshara grabbed her keys, opened her car door and trunk and put her in the trunk and closed it, Johnson testified.
Beshara went back inside the apartment complex and emerged 10 to 20 minutes later, telling his accomplices he had found no money in her apartment, Johnson said. Johnson identified Guthrie as the victim from a photo of her, which Desmond showed him on the witness stand.
Beshara then drove Guthrie's car, with the three teenagers as passengers and Guthrie still in the trunk, to a store on Youngstown's West Side, where he parked and opened the trunk, Johnson testified.
Johnson said he could not hear what Beshara or Guthrie were saying, but Desmond had said in his opening statement that Guthrie pleaded for her life and Beshara demanded her money and beat her before shutting the trunk.
Victim run over
Beshara re-entered the car and told his accomplices Guthrie would have to be killed because she could identify him as her neighbor. They then drove to Parkcliff Avenue near Hudson Avenue on Youngstown's South Side, Johnson said. There, Beshara and Bertram took Guthrie out of the trunk and placed her on the pavement before Beshara backed the car over her and then drove forward over her, he said.
When Beshara drove the teenagers back to the West Side to drop them off, he warned them to be quiet, said he had connections that would prevent him from being arrested and prosecuted, and told them he knew where they lived, Johnson testified.
"I was scared because I had just seen him kill somebody and show no remorse for it," Johnson said. Guthrie's car was destroyed by fire on Youngstown's West Side later that morning.
Johnson said he later encountered Beshara while both were in Mahoning County jail. "He told me to keep my mouth shut. It was their word against ours," Johnson recalled, referring to statements Smith and Bertram had given police about the crimes against Guthrie.
Under cross-examination by Beshara's lawyer, Thomas E. Zena, Johnson acknowledged that he made no statement to police concerning the crimes until after entering his plea and that he gave the statement in return for favorable treatment from the prosecution.
Johnson also acknowledged his sworn statement consisted primarily of yes-and-no answers to questions in which Desmond asked him to verify details of the crimes as stated by Desmond.
Johnson was one of 20 prosecution witnesses; the defense rested without calling any witnesses.