Shawn Hope convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery, could get life with no parole
By Ed Runyan
The jury in the Shawn Hope trial returned guilty verdicts on all counts Thursday, finding that Hope killed John P. Kellar, 41, of Niles.
Jurors also found that Hope kidnapped Kellar’s fiance and another woman, stole a van and committed other crimes Dec. 2, 2016.
Hope, 51, who could get life in prison without parole when he is sentenced May 1, closed his eyes as he listenened to the seven guilty verdicts.
The jury of seven women and five men in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court deliberated three hours before finding Hope guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of kidnapping, one of aggravated robbery, one of tampering with evidence and one of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Judge Andrew Logan, who presided over the trial, will sentence Hope on only one of the two aggravated-murder counts, apparently the one alleging the killing was premeditated.
Hope killed Kellar by shooting him twice in the chest in a home on Stephens Avenue Northwest, then kidnapped Kellar’s fiancee , Tabitha Powell, 23, and Alicia Binion, 37, whose father owned the house.
Kellar, Powell and Binion were all living at the Stephens address when the episode occurred, and all were illegal drug users, according to testimony. Hope frequently visited the home, riding there on a bicycle, Powell testified.
Family members of Kellar, including his father and stepmother, expressed gratitude for the police work and prosecution of the case.
“Maybe now I can sleep at night,” said John Kellar, John P. Kellar’s father.
Powell escaped from her van as Hope and Binion went into Rocky’s AM PM Mini Mart on West Market Street shortly after the killing. Binion returned to Warren on a bus a few weeks after Hope took her to Detroit.
A Michigan fugitive task force found Hope hiding under a porch in a run-down Detroit neighborhood several months after the killing. Hope had previous Detroit connections, having felony criminal cases in Detroit in 1994, 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2012, according to a Michigan court website.
On Dec. 1, Kellar got angry at Hope because Kellar believed Hope was “hitting on me,” Powell testified. “They started arguing about it,” but the argument ended fairly soon, Powell testified.
The next night about 6:15 p.m., when Hope visited the house, he walked straight up to Kellar in the hallway and shot him, Powell testified.
The final prosecution witness Thursday morning was forensic scientist Hallie Dreyer of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who said the handgun police believe was used to kill Kellar did not have Hope’s DNA on it, but a bullet casing found in the home had DNA on it that could have been Hope’s.
A state crime analyst testified that the gun found at an Ohio Turnpike exit near Toledo where Hope was seen on surveillance video was the murder weapon, Gabe Wildman, assistant county prosecutor, said in closing arguments.
David Rouzzo, one of Hope’s attorneys, said in closing arguments that the testimony of Powell and Binion had too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions to be believable.
“It’s not your job to fill in the blanks,” Rouzzo told jurors. “Do you believe Tabitha Powell — the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth?”