Councilman attends hearing in support of burglary victims



The home was burglarized while the residents were in the house.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Youngstown councilman attended a criminal hearing Monday in municipal court to show support for a couple who were burglary victims.
Jennifer Fisher of Katherine Avenue testified that she saw her car "going out the driveway" after a burglar left her East Side home Jan. 18.
Dana C. Guarnieri, assistant city prosecutor, had both Fisher, 56, and her husband, Shirley V. Johnson, 52, testify at a preliminary hearing Monday in municipal court. The couple's house had been broken into that morning and, aside from the car, DVDs and CDs were stolen from a spare bedroom.
After the hearing, Judge Robert P. Milich bound the case against 23-year-old Robert L. Swope over to a Mahoning County grand jury. Swope, of Sierra Drive, is charged with burglary and receiving stolen property. His bond is 32,500.
Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, attended the hearing to offer support for Fisher and Johnson, who he said were concerned that not much would happen to Swope.
The councilman said "people have to see that things are happening."
Confronted intruder
Johnson, meanwhile, testified that he hadn't been feeling well that morning and went into the kitchen to make tea. He noticed things had been moved and went to wake his wife and grab his gun.
Johnson said he came face to face with the intruder, who pushed the spare bedroom door closed and locked it from the inside. Johnson said he was outside the door on the phone with 911 when "the crook got out the [bedroom] window and took the car."
He identified Swope in court as the burglar. He said he previously picked Swope out of a photo lineup.
Swope's Youngstown attorney, Jeffrey Limbian, established that neither Fisher nor Johnson saw who was inside their Pontiac as it left the driveway.
Johnson wasn't able to estimate how much time elapsed. He testified that what happened was exciting, traumatic -- "like whoosh" -- and said it could have been quick but then added, "I don't know."
Patrolman Kerry Wigley, who arrived at the house around 4:10 a.m., testified that he found the spare bedroom window open and broadcast a description of the stolen vehicle, a 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix.
Wigley then searched for the car and saw it leave a gas station on McGuffey Road. The officer next spotted the car in a parking lot on McGuffey with two occupants.
Arrests made
Arrested at the scene were Swope and the driver, Deshawn Harmon, 26, of Eastway Drive. Harmon told police that he had been picked up by Swope at the gas station.
Johnson, called to the scene to retrieve the Pontiac, said he saw Swope in one cruiser and a second man in another cruiser.
"So then you thought two men had been in your house," Limbian asked. "Yes," Johnson answered.
Harmon was not charged with the burglary on Katherine Avenue but was held in jail for failure to appear in an unrelated breaking and entering case that was filed a month ago in municipal court. That case was bound over to a grand jury Monday afternoon.
Late last month, a Mahoning County grand jury indicted Swope and charged him with failure to comply with an order of police. That case is set for pretrial Feb. 23 in common pleas court.
Records show Swope has prior convictions for trafficking in a counterfeit controlled substance and marijuana, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct (amended from theft) and traffic violations. In June 2005, one judge noted that Swope has a history of criminal behavior and was discharged three times from a drug treatment program.
meade@vindy.com

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