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Niles teen to be jailed until 21

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Kasean Wilkerson, right, stands before Judge Sandra Stabile Harwood on Thursday in Trumbull County Juvenile Court.

WARREN — Kasean R. Wilkerson, 16, formerly of Youngstown, will be detained in an Ohio Department of Youth Services facility until he is 21 for a 2 a.m. March 31 drive-by shooting into a South Side home, where a girl, 13, was hit in the leg while in bed.

That shooting, on East Avondale Avenue near Taft Elementary School, resulted in great frustration in the city and prompted marches and creation of a video by students and staff at the school with a theme of “We Are Peace — We Are Taft.” The video asked the community to “please stop the violence.”

Wilkerson, now of Niles, pleaded guilty in Mahoning County Juvenile Court in July to felonious assault and discharging a firearm at or into a habitation.

But Ohio law requires a juvenile to be transferred to the county where he or she lives for sentencing purposes, so Judge Sandra Stabile Harwood of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court carried out the sentencing.

Wilkerson and his family moved to Niles sometime last year to avoid conflicts he was having when he lived in Youngstown, his attorney, John Shultz, told Stabile Harwood.

Shultz said Wilkerson was the victim “in some matters” in Youngstown. “There was an ongoing dispute. His mother thought it would be wise to relocate to Niles. Unfortunately, that grudge and dispute continued, and that’s what resulted in this action. He literally went back to Youngstown, unfortunately, to even a score.”

Of his client, Shultz said: “At this age, certain individuals just do not realize the seriousness of their acts whether it was intended or nonintended.”

Shultz noted that Wilkerson was receiving mental health counseling earlier and asked that such counseling continue. Stabile Harwood agreed that she would recommend he get such counseling.

‘TOOK A TURN’

The judge, who lives in Niles, then asked the defendant if she remembered correctly that he had been playing football for Niles at one point. He replied that he had been the freshman quarterback.

She said it appeared he was “engaged and involved and doing well” and court staff “saw real potential.”

Wilkerson agreed, but said, “Everything just took a turn.”

Then he apologized to the victim and her family, none of whom attended the hearing. “She didn’t deserve that,” he said. “I regret every single thing I did.”

The judge sentenced him to a minimum of seven years in a state juvenile facility but not past age 21. She also sentenced him to 14 years as a serious youthful offender, which means he could serve additional time in an adult prison after age 21 if he does not complete his juvenile sentence successfully.

Stanley Elkins, assistant county prosecutor, said it means, for example, if Wilkerson only completes two years successfully in a state juvenile facility, he would have to serve another 12 years in an adult prison.

CASE FACTS

Youngstown police made arrests shortly after the shooting. Wilkerson later admitted to being the one who fired the gun, a police report states.

Youngstown police said an officer who was in the area learned the vehicle involved in the shooting was a white sport utility vehicle with pinstriping. The officer spotted a white Chevrolet Trailblazer at a stop sign at Dickson Street and South Avenue.

The vehicle attempted to get onto Interstate 680 but stopped after the officer got behind the vehicle with lights and sirens.

The other juvenile in the case, Xavier Hile, 16, also of Niles, faces the same charges as Wilkerson. He was scheduled for sentencing Thursday also, but the hearing was postponed, and no new hearing date was available.

Police said Hile was driving the car, Jana M. Cox, 25, of York Avenue in Warren, was in the front passenger seat, and Wilkerson was in the back seat. All three were escorted out of the vehicle. An officer closed a passenger door and heard the sound of a bullet shell casing hitting the ground and found it next to the door.

Officers also found a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat and two more shell casings outside of the car.

Following a trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, Cox was found guilty of obstructing justice and improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle. She is set for sentencing at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 16 in Mahoning County.

After the hearing, Shultz said the girl who was shot was not the intended victim, at least as far as Wilkerson was concerned.

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