Howland man charged in Niles killing held on $2 million bond

By Ed Runyan


Niles Municipal Judge Christopher Shaker set bond at $2 million Tuesday for Robin L. Caviness Jr., 39, charged with murder in the shooting death of Clayton Bender, 23, of Kenilworth Avenue in Warren.

Caviness, of state Route 46 in Howland, was video arraigned from the Trumbull County jail. No plea was entered, and a preliminary hearing is set for 9:15 a.m. June 20 unless Caviness is indicted by a grand jury by then.

Caviness is accused of shooting Bender about 2 a.m. Monday as Bender sat in the back seat of a Cadillac parked behind Madden’s Bar and Grill on Youngstown Road.

Caviness turned himself in at the police station Monday evening, was interviewed and booked into the county jail at 11:17 p.m.

Capt. John Marshall of the Niles Police Department said the department was able to make a quick arrest because of good witness information, a lot of witnesses and “physical evidence at the scene.” Marshall said earlier that police also have surveillance footage from the area where the killing took place.

Police believe Bender and two other people left a private gathering in the bar that was held to memorialize Scott Rockenfelder Jr., 28, who was shot to death in a car on Main Avenue Southwest in Warren in December. The gathering was held on Rockenfelder’s birthday.

Police also suspect that Caviness and several others with him had also been at the gathering. Marshall said there was a physical altercation between the two groups before gunfire erupted, but Marshall said he doesn’t know why they were arguing.

Police recovered the suspected murder weapon, but they did not recover other weapons, Marshall said. The two people with Bender fled on foot when the shooting started, but they returned to speak with police after the suspects left the area, Marshall said.

The county prosecutor’s office will determine whether any additional charges will be filed, Marshall said.

During the arraignment, when Judge Shaker asked Caviness was whether he qualified for a public defender, Caviness replied that he has a job and six children. A public defender was assigned, but Caviness was advised he could hire his own attorney if he wished.

A woman who said she was Bender’s mother declined to comment after the hearing.

“Unless you can bring my son back, I have nothing to say,” she said.

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