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Jury finds Youngstown man guilty of killing his children’s mom

YOUNGSTOWN –A jury found Kyle Rice, 31, guilty of aggravated murder and murder late Wednesday in the Feb. 8, 2019, shooting death of Danekua Bankston, 28, the mother of three of his children.

Rice did not show any emotion as the guilty verdicts were read. Judge Anthony Donofrio of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court did not announce a sentencing date.

Rice took the witness stand earlier in the day to describe a scenario in which, he said, he and Bankston struggled over Rice’s gun, and it went off. Bankston was struck in the bedroom of her Oregon Avenue apartment on the West Side, and died several days later.

Rice testified that he went to Bankston’s apartment early Feb. 8, spoke briefly with Bankston’s sister, Dajanae Bankston, then went upstairs to Danekua’s bedroom. Danekua followed him up the stairs a few minutes later. He “dozed off a little bit,” he said.

He awoke to Danekua throwing a phone at Rice’s head, he said. Testimony indicated she was angry over what she’d found in the phone. “She grabbed me by my chain,” he said of a necklace holding a crucifix. His son, 2, was asleep on the bed. “She kind of snatched me from the back and threw the chain off of my neck.”

“When I turned around, I seen my gun in her hand,” he said. Rice had brought the gun to her apartment in a bag he carries everywhere with him and put the bag on the floor of the bedroom. Rice had a concealed-carry license.

“I tried to calm her down,” he said under questioning from one of his attorneys, Doug Taylor. “I told her, ‘if you shoot, you could accidentally shoot my son as well.'”

Then Rice said he got hold of Danekua’s hand with the gun and held it up in the air. He said that’s when Danekua called her sister’s nickname “Na Na,” which her sister heard, causing her to come up the stairs to see what was wrong.

Dajanae tried to get into the room, but could not because Rice and Danekua were in front of the door, Rice said. Then he heard Dajanae waking up the two other children, both age 6, in their bedrooms.

“We struggled with the gun,” he said. “I’m trying to take the gun. I’m trying to stop the gun from going off.”

Rice asked if he could demonstrate the way the two were wrestling. Judge Anthony Donofrio allowed that, so Taylor stood facing Rice and put his right hand in the air as Rice held Taylor’s hand in that position.

Rice said he and Danekua both had their hands on the gun and then he saw Danekua fall.

Rice said he only heard a couple of shots go off, but he didn’t hear any after he got control of the gun from Danekua. After he saw that Danekua had been “grazed on her face” by a bullet, “I just froze. I grabbed the bag and walked downstairs.”

He turned himself in to an attorney in Boardman a day later and was taken into custody.

Under cross examaination by Dawn Cantalamessa, assistant prosecutor, Rice said he grabbed Danekua’s hand with the gun after she looked over at their son on the bed.

Because Rice had described Danekua being shot two times while he was holding her hand in the air, Cantalamessa asked if Danekua “contorted her whole wrist in a 180-degree fashion pointed at herself.” Cantalamessa twisted her own wrist in that way to demonstrate. “Do you think she was pointing it down at herself?” she asked.

“Yes, I mean I was holding her. I was holding her wrist,” he said.

Cantalamessa asked Rice if he heard any other shots, and Rice said no.

Earlier testimony indicated that Danekua was hit by about eight gunshots — in the head, forearm, hand, left thigh, left hip, two times in her abdomen and one time in the back of her neck.

Cantalamessa asked why Rice didn’t call 911 or Danekua’s family after she was shot eight times, since he said he loved her.

He said all he had was a computer tablet because he didn’t have his phone. He texted his sister later to talk to her about what to do, he testified.

erunyan@vindy.com

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