Man averts murder trial with guilty plea

By Joe Gorman


The last of three men accused of an April 2014 homicide who was to have a bench trial Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court instead pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Michael Wilkins, 24, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter with a firearm specification in the April 1, 2014, murder of Maurise Kerns, 24.

Kerns was killed after he was lured to a vacant home in the 500 block of Idora Avenue.

Judge Maureen Sweeney accepted the plea. Wilkins was originally charged with aggravated murder.

In May, brothers Bralin and Breandre Allen pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault for their roles in the death of Kerns. They received sentences of 15 and 20 years in prison, respectively.

Investigators said Kerns was killed in retaliation for a shooting a few weeks before his death in which one of the Allens was wounded.

Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of 14 years. Sentencing will take place after a pre-sentence investigation.

Officers responded to the area of Idora and Utilis avenues about 3 a.m. April 1, 2014, for a gunshot-sensor activation. When they arrived, they found Kerns’ body on the porch. Nearby was a revolver and a cellphone, and police recovered five spent .380-caliber shell casings in the driveway and yard, reports said.

Breandre Allen was shot in the foot in an exchange of gunfire with Kerns. Breandre Allen then drove himself to a hospital in Akron and told authorities there that he had been wounded during an attempted robbery in Akron. When city police learned Breandre Allen was in Akron, they asked Akron police to hold him for Youngstown police.

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