By DAVID SKOLNICK
Neither of the two men charged with robbing, kidnapping and killing a Youngstown real-estate agent has a criminal record.
“It’s very odd that you see someone enter the system with this level of crime,” said city Prosecutor Jay Macejko.
Most people charged with the murder of a stranger, such as in this case, are usually charged with lesser crimes and work their way up to violent crimes, Macejko said.
“These two started at the pinnacle,” he said.
Robert S. Brooks, 25, of Castalia
Avenue in Youngstown, and Grant P. Cooper, 21, of Sulgrave Drive in Brookfield were arraigned Friday in Youngstown Municipal Court. Each faces a single count of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Brooks and Cooper also were charged with aggravated arson.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to death.
The two are accused of Monday’s murder of Vivian Martin, 67, owner of Essence Realty. The two suspects strangled her, Macejko and Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said.
Her body was found badly burned inside a Nelson Avenue house that was set afire.
The suspects “got a small amount of cash and some jewelry” from Martin, Macejko said.
“There’s no reason this woman’s life should have been cut short,” he added.
Judge Robert P. Milich denied bond for the two suspects and ordered them held in the Mahoning County jail.
The two are scheduled to appear in court Friday for preliminary hearings. But Macejko said he expects the case to be directly presented to a county grand jury with Brooks and Cooper indicted Thursday on the charges. The case will then go to the county common pleas court.
Brooks and Cooper made separate video confessions that they killed Martin, Macejko and Hughes said.
When asked if he believed Brooks and Cooper lured Martin to the East Side home to not only rob her, but murder her, Macejko said, “Yes, I do. All indications are they went there with the intention to kill.”
Paul A. Brooks, 27, of Castalia Avenue in Youngstown, Robert S. Brooks’ brother, didn’t murder Martin, Hughes and Macejko said.
He was a suspect, but evidence shows he didn’t commit the murder and wasn’t at the murder scene, Hughes said.
But the two Brooks brothers are accused of the Sept. 15 robbery of a real-estate agent at gunpoint in Boardman.
The older Brooks has a criminal record and is on parole for aggravated robbery, according to a police affidavit.
Also, Youngstown police are investigating whether Paul Brooks was involved in planning the murder or possessed money or anything taken from Martin in the murder, Hughes said.
“We’re not trying to give him a get-out-of-jail-free card,” he said. “If we can connect him in any way” the police will charge him.
The three are believed to have “cased houses trying to rob agents,” Hughes said.
Two real-estate agents, suspicious of the brothers at open houses in Liberty days before the murder, provided information to police about the suspects and the vehicle they were driving.
“These guys attempted to set up additional Realtors,” Macejko said.
Also, Cooper is accused of stealing $2,500 worth of merchandise from the Brookfield Video store, where he was once employed. When he went to the Brookfield police station for questioning, Robert S. Brooks accompanied him.
After using a state attorney general background check system, Brookfield police learned that officers in Youngstown and Boardman were looking for the two, Hughes said.