Testimony centers on text message

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



Testimony in the trial of a Youngstown man accused of killing his girlfriend centered on a text message purportedly sent to the 17-year-old victim moments before she was shot dead at a relative’s West Side home.

Melvin S. Shaw II, 20, of Idlewood Avenue, is charged with the aggravated murder of Tracee Banks, 17, and attempted murder of Jamel Turner, 18, of Youngstown in 2010. Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court is presiding over the trial.

Detective Sgt. John Patton spent much of the day on the witness stand Thursday detailing for jurors the time line immediately after the June 19, 2010, shooting and an interview with Shaw hours after the shooting. Dawn Cantalamessa, an assistant county prosecutor, played a video of the interview in court.

In the video-recorded interview, Shaw tells officers he was nowhere near the Manchester Avenue home where Banks was shot just after 11:30 p.m. about the time of the shooting. He said he was home sleeping at that time.

Patton, in the video, pointed to a text message allegedly from Shaw’s phone, sent to Banks stating, “I [bleeping] hate you,” only minutes before the girl was murdered. Shaw told officers he never sent the text.

“I ain’t send no text saying I hate her. I was sleep around 11:30 when I got off the phone with her,” he said. “I was sleep, I talked to her for a minute at 11 or 11:30. ... I swear I ain’t text her.”

Shaw told officers during the interview he heard Banks, whom he called his girlfriend, had been shot. He did not, however, attempt to call the girl after hearing the news. He told officers people thought he had been killed because he and Banks were always together.

Patton also spoke about the gunshot-residue test given to Shaw hours after the shooting.

Atty. Thomas Zena, representing Shaw, questioned Patton about the text message his client allegedly sent to Banks moments before she was shot.

Patton admitted police could not get Shaw’s cellphone and text records from the night of the shooting. He also said the message had been erased from Banks’ phone while the phone was in police custody because of an influx of text messages after her death.

Patton, under cross- examination by Zena, also admitted no officers spoke to members of Shaw’s family to verify his claim of being at home sleeping at the time of the shooting.

Zena emphasized his client maintained his innocence in the face of all police questioning. He also emphasized the only photo-identification made of his client as the shooter was by Turner, but only after he had seen three different views of a photo lineup. Turner said Shaw, as he appeared in the photo array, “could” be the shooter.

Prosecutors contend Shaw and Banks had been hanging out together the day of the shooting until Shaw dropped the girl off at the home to baby-sit. They say he became angry after a series of arguments with Banks over the phone, and returned to the house shooting her and Turner, a lifelong friend.

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