Double murder trial set to begin

By John W. Goodwin Jr.


Two men either will enter into a plea deal or face a Mahoning County jury this week in the 2010 murder and burning of two men on the city’s South Side.

Jury selection was set to begin today if no plea agreement is reached in the case against Joseph Moreland, 28, of the county jail, and Kenneth Moncrief, 26, of Fairgreen Avenue. The two men face charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and arson. The charges could land both men in prison for life.

The trial was slated to begin Tuesday, but talks between prosecutors and defense attorneys carried on for the bulk of the day.

The charges against Moreland and Moncrief stem from the deaths of Jaron L. Roland, 20, of Fairmont Avenue, and Darry B. Woods-Burt Jr., 19, of the city’s North Side. The victims, who were described by family members at the time as inseparable first cousins, were found inside a burning car on West Avenue near the Mahoning River in August 2009. Both men were bound with duct tape, and bags had been placed over their heads.

The case is being heard in the courtroom of Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Moreland is represented by Atty. Lou DeFabio, and Moncrief is represented by Atty. Thomas Zena.

A third man charged in connection with the double murder already has gone to trial. Lorenza Barnette, 29, was convicted of aggravated murder with death-penalty specifications, kidnapping and arson, in the suffocation deaths of Roland and Woods-Burt Jr.

Barnette was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Moreland, regardless of the outcome of this trial, likely will be in court again in the near future.

Moreland is charged with aggravated murder and robbery in the shooting death of Brian Greer, 32, of Republic Avenue, who was killed March 29 on Lauderdale Avenue.

Witnesses told police someone drove past the Lauderdale residence firing at the house. Greer was shot once in the head and multiple times in the body and was pronounced dead at St. Elizabeth Health Center.

Moreland pleaded not guilty to those charges as well. That case also is before Judge Sweeney, but has been stayed until the outcome of the trial this week.

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