Judge bars evidence in case of slain Youngstown Realtor Vivian Martin

By Peter H. Milliken



A potentially incriminating statement made to Brookfield police by a suspect in the murder of a real-estate broker in Youngs-town must be excluded from evidence in his trial because police failed to warn him of his right to remain silent before questioning him while he was in their custody, a judge has ruled.

Judge James C. Evans ruled Thursday on a defense motion to suppress evidence in the case of Robert S. Brooks, 27, of Castalia Avenue.

Brooks faces the death penalty in the Sept. 20, 2010, slaying of Vivian Martin, 67, whose badly burned body was found inside a Nelson Avenue house that had been set ablaze.

That house on the city’s East Side had been listed for sale by Martin’s Essence Realty.

Also facing the death penalty in that slaying is Grant P. Cooper, 23, of Sulgrave Drive, Brookfield.

Although he excluded Brooks’ Sept. 21, 2010, statement to Brookfield police, the judge ruled that Brooks’ statement to Youngstown and Boardman police is admissible because they gave Brooks a proper warning before questioning him.

“All questions asked and comments made by Brookfield police, including any and all responses of defendant prior to the arrival of Youngstown and Boardman Police detectives, are hereby ordered suppressed,” the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge ruled.

On another matter, Judge Evans ruled that the identification of Brooks from a photo lineup by another real-estate saleswoman, who said Brooks robbed her in Boardman, is admissible in the trial because the lineup procedure used by Boardman police “was not unduly suggestive.”

Also charged in the Boardman robbery was Brooks’ brother, Paul Brooks, 29, of Castalia Avenue. Paul Brooks is not charged in the murder case.

The real estate saleswoman who was shown the photo lineup said she was robbed at gunpoint Sept. 15, 2010, as she showed the Brookses an apartment on Hillman Way.

Trial dates haven’t been set for Cooper and Robert Brooks. Paul Brooks’ jury trial is set to begin Jan. 28.

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