×

Kimonie Bryant pleads not guilty in death of Rowan Sweeney

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Attorney John Juhasz, left, sits next to defendant Kimonie D. Bryant, 24, of Struthers on Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Juhasz later entered a not guilty plea on Bryant’s behalf to aggravated murder and 13 other charges, tied to the fatal shooting of Rowan Sweeney, 4, and wounding of four adults.

YOUNGSTOWN — Kimonie D. Bryant, 24, of Struthers, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to aggravated murder in the shooting death of 4-year-old Rowan Sweeney.

Bryant appeared for arraignment in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on that charge and charges related to the shootings of four adults, also Sept. 21, at a home on Perry Street in Struthers.

Judge Maureen Sweeney, who presided over the arraignment, set Bryant’s trial date for Nov. 30. But Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who represented the state at the hearing along with assistant Prosecutor Mike Yacovone, said it is likely to take much longer for the case to go to trial.

Because it is a death penalty case, “There is heightened scrutiny, and it will take longer than a regular case,” Gains said, adding: “We will do whatever we have to do to get justice for Rowan.”

Sweeney deferred a decision on whether Bryant will remain held in the Mahoning County jail without eligibility to make bond to Judge John Durkin, who will hear the case. In the meantime, Bryant will remain in jail.

THE SHOOTINGS

Bryant is accused of walking in the front door of the home where Rowan; his mother, Alexis Schneider, 22; and Yarnell Green Jr., 30; were living.

Bryant immediately shot Andre McCoy, 20, in the head, Gains said last week. Bryant then shot Green when Green “jumped up” from the same couch on which McCoy was sitting and tried to flee. Bryant then shot Green “several more times as he lay on the floor,” Gains said.

Schneider and Rowan were on a couch on the opposite wall from McCoy. Rowan was asleep, and his legs were on his mother’s lap. It was about 2 a.m.

Police have said Rowan’s mother covered Rowan and begged Bryant not to shoot him, but Bryant did.

In addition to the charges related to Rowan’s death, Bryant, of Struthers, also was indicted on four counts of attempted murder and four counts of felonious assault in the shootings of the four adults.

Bryant also was indicted on aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery.

TWO LAWYERS

Bryant’s first pretrial hearing in front of Durkin will be 11:30 a.m. Oct. 15.

Because this is a death penalty case, Sweeney raised the issue of Bryant needing two attorneys to represent him. She asked John Juhasz, who already is appointed to represent Bryant, if he wanted her to appoint the second attorney.

Juhasz said he prefer that Durkin makes the appointment, because Juhasz had already spoken with Durkin’s court about it.

Though the death penalty is a possibility for Bryant, he also could get life in prison without any possibility of parole and up to an additional 84 years in prison, if convicted, Gains said.

The specifications that make the death penalty possible are that Bryant allegedly killed a person under age 13, killed or attempted to kill two or more people, and killed while committing aggravated burglary and / or aggravated robbery.

Bryant could get the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder and any one of those specifications, Gains said.

The last death penalty case in Mahoning County was that of Lance Hundley, who was sentenced to death in 2018 after he murdered disabled woman Erika Huff in her Youngstown home, tried to kill Huff’s mother and set them both on fire in November 2015. The Ohio Supreme Court in July affirmed Huff’s conviction and sentence.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)