By joe gorman
The lawyer for a man accused of a triple homicide in 1974 said reading the case file is like a “who’s who” of organized crime in the Mahoning Valley.
Tony Meranto, attorney for James Ferrara, said at a status hearing Tuesday before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that there are several big names that popped up when he went over discovery material over the weekend in advance of the hearing.
In fact, Meranto said, there was enough circumstantial evidence to charge at least three of those figures, something prosecutors Becky Doherty and Dawn Cantalamessa openly scoffed at during the hearing.
“The names that were thrown out [during the initial investigation] were like a who’s who of the mob,” Meranto said.
Some of the names that popped up during his reading included Robert and Paul Parks and Mario Guerrieri, Meranto said.
Ferrara, 64, was indicted in June for the December, 1974 murders of Benjamin Marsh, 33; his wife, Marilyn, 32; and their daughter, Heather, 4, at their South Turner Road home in Canfield Township.
Christopher Marsh, 1, was unharmed but found crawling in his mother’s blood when sheriff’s deputies arrived.
The department chased down several leads during the initial investigation and worked several angles, including that Marsh’s death was connected to a possible theft ring at the General Motors Lordstown Plant where he was a security guard.
Ferrara was indicted after detectives with the sheriff’s office were able to match his fingerprints in 2009 with a statewide data base. Ferrara has been serving time in prison on a life sentence since being convicted in a double homicide in 1984 in the Columbus area.
Meranto said one of his major problems in the case is anyone interviewed by investigators or the investigators themselves at the time of the case are dead, including other suspects and former Sheriff Edward Nemeth, who worked the case as a detective and who Meranto said was quoted in the material he was given as saying that Marsh may have been investigating a theft ring when he was killed.
Ferrara also had worked at the GM plant at the same time that Marsh did. Ferrara’s name never comes up, Meranto said.
Guerrieri had a criminal record dating back to at least the 1960s, with federal charges including counterfeiting and firearm violations, and in the 1990s, he was charged federally with being part of an arson-for-profit ring and received a 10-year prison sentence.
Paul Parks had a criminal record dating back to the 1970s, when he was first accused in Youngstown Municipal Court of shooting his brother. In 1983, he received a 15-year federal sentence for firearms and stolen-property charges.
Robert Parks was convicted in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for the December 1977 wounding of Girard Dr. Leo DiBlasio and killing his wife, Patricia, and a nurse, Mary Muffley, in a murder-for-hire scheme by the doctor’s ex-wife. He was sentenced to life in prison and died in prison in 2010.
Meranto also said he is concerned that prosecutors may try to tell potential jurors about the crimes Ferrara is serving time for. He said included in the packet he was given were interviews with his two accomplices in that double homicide, Joseph Weeks and Mark Jennings, both of whom were from Trumbull County and served several years in prison themselves for the murders.
Meranto said sheriff’s Detective Pat Mondora and assistant county prosecutor Nick Modarelli traveled to Oregon to interview Weeks, but the audiocassette of the interview has significant gaps. Doherty said she would try to provide Meranto with a better copy, and Judge Krichbaum also ordered Doherty and Modadelli to meet with Meranto about the interview to fill in any other gaps.
Meranto said he will be filing a motion asking that if Judge Krichbaum allows testimony of the murders Ferrara is convicted of, he at least wants a transcript of the interview so he can prepare, and also that such testimony of prior criminal conduct be excluded.
Prosecutors did not say if they would pursue that strategy during trial.
A trial date of Oct. 21 has been set for the case.