Judge denies bail modification in murder case

By Joe Gorman



Judge Anthony Donofrio denied a motion Tuesday by murder suspect Kyle Rice to reduce his $1 million bond.

After a short hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, Judge Donofrio said that the facts of the case against Rice, 29, are “very serious charges, very egregious facts.”

Also, with a trial date set for July 15, Judge Donofrio said he did not want to modify the bond so close to a trial.

Rice has had a $1 million bond since he was arraigned in municipal court in the Feb. 9 shooting death of Danekua Bankston, 28.

Rice was arrested shortly after Bankston was shot at her Oregon Avenue apartment on the West Side. She died a few days later in St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.

Prosecutors said in a motion opposing a reduction in Rice’s bond that he shot Bankston in front of their children and that witness testimony and cellphone evidence places Rice at the scene of murder. The shooting came after an argument between Bankston and Rice, and Rice shot her several times, prosecutors said. Rice left with the murder weapon but did leave his phone next to the victim.

Ed Hartwig, Rice’s attorney, said that bond is necessary to ensure a defendant’s appearance and the bond for Rice is far too high.

“That’s not a bond. That’s a ransom,” Hartwig said.

Hartwig said his client has strong ties to the community, as he is the father of eight children. He also is a licensed barber, has a criminal record of just two misdemeanors and was a valid concealed weapon permit holder at the time of the shooting, which meant he had a passed background check that allowed him to have a firearm.

Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said phone records show Rice arguing with Bankston before she was killed and that he left his phone next to her, which places him at the scene of her death.

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