Warren man sentenced to 11 years in prison for killing wrong man in 2016

Staff report


Prosecutors think Jimmy R. Stella Jr. of Warren Township shot and killed Mark Cleveland, 66, in Cleveland’s Bane Street, Warren Township, home Oct. 17, 2016, while looking for another man who was not there.

Police say Cleveland was standing near a second-floor window in his home, looking out, when he was hit in the leg by gunfire early Oct. 17. He died when the bullet hit a major artery, a family member said the day of the shooting.

On Thursday, Stella, 38, of Seventh Street Southwest, got an 11-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, improperly discharging firearms into a habitation and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Chris Becker, assistant county prosecutor, said prosecutors were willing to reduce the charge from murder to involuntary manslaughter because there was no eyewitness to the killing and no confession.

Law enforcement tied Stella to the killing only after finding the weapon used to kill Cleveland while investigating a separate crime the following February.

The weapon was recovered while police were investigating allegations that Stella assaulted his pregnant wife in February 2017. Stella is still facing two counts of felonious assault, two counts of kidnapping and one count of domestic violence in that case.

Becker said prosecutors believe Stella fired at Cleveland while looking for someone he thought stole drugs and money from him.

Becker said one of the two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm Stella pleaded guilty to Thursday was from the February incident.

A granddaughter of Cleveland’s, 13, who was inside the house at the time the shooting occurred, said the shooting happened in two stages, with about four shots fired at first, then a lull of about 10 minutes, then about 25 more shots fired, including the shot that killed Cleveland.

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