Man and woman indicted for role in Austintown house explosion

Staff report


With the help of witnesses and scrapyard owners, Austintown police were able to find two people now indicted in connection with a house explosion on South Turner Road.

Shawn Villers, 27, and Michele Zandarski, 25, were indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury Thursday.

Villers, of Stanford Avenue, is charged with arson, burglary, possessing criminal tools and receiving stolen property. Zandarski, of North Turner Road, faces the same charges along with a charge of obstructing justice.

According to the police report, the suspects were attempting to steal copper pipes Sunday when they cut a gas line. The gas filled the home until it exploded, taking the house off its foundation. Police responded to the scene about 8 p.m.

“We developed some leads that night. Witnesses saw the car, but the reason they didn’t call that morning was because they were showing the house and cars had been coming and going for a while,” said Detective Shawn Hevener.

Witnesses had said they saw a green Kia parked in the driveway of 2196 South Turner Road on Sunday morning.

Police used a description of the man who left in the vehicle to identify a potential suspect. Villers was someone police recognized from “past dealings,” according to Hevener.

Villers also is facing robbery charges from a February incident in which he purportedly robbed two gas stations in Austintown and one in Weathersfield.

Scrapyard owners helped the case significantly when two yard owners called to report copper pipes turned in to their facilities. If it weren’t for the scrapyard owners’ call, police might not have found the suspects so quickly, Hevener said.

“A lot of time they [scrapyards] are instrumental in these cases with their bookkeeping,” Hevener said.

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