By Ed Runyan
Jamal R. Wright, a 19-year-old city man who has been in trouble with police since he was 11, has been charged with killing 17-year-old Zeboney A. Bess.
Wright pleaded innocent Monday morning in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to charges of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He is in the Trumbull County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond. He was arrested Saturday morning.
If convicted, Wright could get a life prison sentence with a chance at parole after 18 years.
Bess was shot in the head at 2057 Hamilton Street Southwest at 10:05 p.m. July 14 and died the next day.
Though initial reports were that Bess was heard arguing with someone just before she was shot by someone in a car, Warren Police Det. Mike Currington said Monday police never confirmed that there was a vehicle or arguing involved.
Warren police and the U.S. Marshals Task Force arrested Wright at 2 a.m. at a relative’s house in Warren after his secret indictment last week by a Trumbull County grand jury.
A bystander at the hospital the night of the shooting mentioned Wright’s name, police said, indicating Wright had been in a relationship with Bess and that she had been “having problems with him.”
Police said Monday Bess knew Wright, but it wasn’t clear what type of relationship they had.
Wright had an address on Southwest Boulevard Southwest, not far from Bess’ home on Kenwood Drive Southwest. Wright also had an address in Akron in 2011, where an arrest warrant was issued for him on a failure-to-comply charge.
Wright’s criminal problems in Warren began at age 11, according to records from the Trumbull County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
On Oct. 14, 2003, Wright was among a group of boys passing a handgun among themselves on South Street after school. One of the boys held the gun to another boy’s head and said, “Give me all your money,” according to a police report.
On Jan. 25, 2006, Wright, then 13, was accused of placing a spray can of deodorant into a garbage can at the former Western Reserve Middle School and setting it on fire with a lighter. About 900 students had to be evacuated from the building.
Wright pleaded guilty to arson, inducing panic and assault and was sentenced to 18 months in an Ohio Department of Youth Services lockup.
On Oct. 9, 2008, when Wright was 16, he shot an 18-year-old man inside the Hampshire House apartments on Fifth Street Southwest and fled on foot.
As a result, in February 2009, Judge Richard L. James sentenced Wright to two years in a state juvenile lockup on a felonious-assault charge and specifications that he used a firearm and that he was a serious youthful offender.