By Ed Runyan
The Warren Police Department has identified the man they believe is responsible for Friday’s homicide on Stephens Avenue Northwest, charging Shawn Johnson, 49, with murder.
They have issued an arrest warrant.
Police have not found Johnson and are not releasing additional information about where he may be, but it’s a huge step to have him identified, said Nick Carney, lead detective in the case.
Police also have not found Alicia Binion, the woman he’s accused of abducting, or the white GMC van he’s accused of stealing while abducting Binion and another woman.
Releasing a photo to the news media of Johnson from surveillance video and having it circulate throughout the internet provided lots of tips, though Carney declined to say what specifically led police to identify Johnson, who also goes by Shawn Hope.
The Trumbull County coroner has ruled that the man Johnson is accused of killing, John P. Kellar, 41, died of at least one gunshot wound and that his death is a homicide.
Meanwhile, two cousins of Binion’s say they are concerned for the well-being of their cousin, but say they are equally worried about rumors on social media.
“She has a daughter who is scared to death,” said Nichelle Binion.
Alicia Binion, 36, disappeared Friday. Police believe Johnson abducted Binion and another woman, 22, who has since been identified as Keller’s fiancee.
The younger woman escaped from the van at Rocky’s Am Pm Food Mart on West Market Street. She went to a home on West Market Street and had a neighbor call 911.
In the 911 call, Kellar’s fiancee can be heard in the background crying as the West Market Street woman tells a dispatcher to send police and an ambulance to the Stephens address.
Kellar’s fiancee, in messages relayed through the resident, said the man “forced her in a vehicle, and he went to Rocky’s at the gas station ... and she got away and came here. So she’s afraid he’s looking for her now.”
Police on Saturday released images from security cameras at Rocky’s showing a male, now identified as Johnson, inside the store and a white GMC van parked at the gas pumps outside. Police asked the public for help in identifying the man.
But Nichelle and Nicole Binion said Tuesday they believe Johnson had been dating Alicia, though they said they didn’t know his name. They also believe Johnson had beaten Alicia Binion the day before the killing.
Alicia had known Keller since they were young, the cousins said. They wonder if Kellar was trying to defend Alicia, and it got Kellar killed.
Because Johnson is dangerous, they are concerned about Alicia’s safety but say “Nobody really knows” whether Alicia was kidnapped or not.
The cousins pointed out that the photo of Johnson inside the store also shows a dark-haired woman nearby handing the man what appears to be money.
The cousins both say that the woman is Alicia.
“I just pray to God she’s not involved in this,” Nicole Binion said of the homicide.
Carney confirmed Tuesday that the woman in the photo is Alicia Binion, but he said the fact that she went into the store doesn’t change investigators’ premise that Binion was abducted.
“We’re saying that she’s abducted until we can prove otherwise. We’re taking this as seriously as possible until we hear otherwise,” Carney said. He added that he doesn’t know whether Alicia Binion knew Johnson before this incident.
For the purposes of filing charges, police are giving Johnson the Stephens Avenue address where the killing took place, but police have no evidence he lived there, Carney said.
Carney said police received “hundreds of calls” after releasing the surveillance photos, some of them with valuable information. He thanked the news media for distributing the images and information.
He also saw social media websites that picked up the photos and information, allowing it to reach out to many other people around the world.