Jamal Wright sentenced to 17 years in prison for killing Warren girl

By Ed Runyan



Zandra Bess, sister of 17-year-old Zeboney A. Bess, told Judge W. Wyatt McKay on Friday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court how disappointed she is Jamal R. Wright was not convicted of murder in her sister’s death.

“I’m not happy with any of this,” she said during a victim-impact statement before Wright received a 17-year prison sentence on charges of involuntary manslaughter and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

“I don’t think it’s right that he had the right to take my sister’s life. Why he did it, I don’t know,” she said.

Another sister, Monica Davis, told Judge McKay how much Zeboney meant to the children in the family and to her sisters.

“She never hurt anybody. She never did anything to anyone,” she said. “And for him to take her life like that, he’s a selfish coward.”

Chris Becker, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said Wright, 20, of Bane Street Southwest and an Akron address, shot Bess to death July 14 on Hamilton Street Southwest.

There has been no motive established, and there was little physical evidence — only a shell casing but not the firearm used, Becker said.

There was one eyewitness and another person on the phone who heard Zeboney say “Jamal” when she was killed, but there was “no DNA, no confession, no ballistics,” Becker said.

“I know the victims are not happy, but given the evidence, we’re very satisfied” with the 17-year prison term, Becker said, adding that murder would have carried a prison term with possible parole after 18 years.

Wright, who was a felon prior to the killing because of a heroin-possession conviction in Summit County, didn’t comment at the hearing.

Zeboney’s sisters said they didn’t know Wright even though some family members had seen him with Zeboney at the Bess residence on Kenwood Drive Southwest.

Wright started having trouble with the law at age 11, according to records at the Trumbull County Juvenile and Domestic Court. In 2003, he was among a group of boys passing around a handgun on South Street after school, police said.

He was convicted of arson in 2006 after starting a fire at the former Warren Western Reserve Middle School and received an 18-month sentence in an Ohio youth prison.

He also shot an 18-year-old man in the Hampshire House apartments on Fifth Street Southwest in 2008 and received a two-year sentence in the state’s youth prison system.

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