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Pair will pursue insanity defenses

Labrae L. Perry faces two murder charges; Damian Cessna held on felonious assault

YOUNGSTOWN — Two defendants in notable cases pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity during their arraignments Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

The attorney for Labrae L. Perry, 44, entered the plea to aggravated murder and murder in the Aug. 24 shooting deaths of two people at a Salt Springs Road home.

If convicted, Perry could get the death penalty. He is accused of killing Ayanna Mills, 49, and her son, Brandon Bell, 28.

The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Perry in Columbus on Aug. 31. He was returned to Mahoning County to face the charges about a week later.

Both victims suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. The shootings may have happened as much as 12 hours apart, said Mike Yacovone, assistant county prosecutor. Bell was checking on his mother because she had not shown up for work that day, Yacovone said.

The victims were found shot in a home in the 1200 block of Salt Springs. Mills was dead at the scene. Bell was taken to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, where he later died.

Perry’s aggravated murder charge includes a “murder to escape” specification that accuses him of killing Bell to escape detection for killing Mills, who Yacovone said was his girlfriend.

Perry is accused of killing Bell when Bell discovered his mother had been killed, Yacovone said.

In addition to the two murder charges, Perry was indicted on being a felon in possession of a firearm, tampering with evidence and grand theft of a motor vehicle. He remains in the Mahoning County jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

Also pleading not guilty by reason of insanity was Damian Cessna, 24 of Boardman, on charges of felonious assault, obstructing official business and aggravated menacing for an incident that led a Boardman police officer to shoot Cessna multiple times.

The confrontation was at 1 a.m. July 13 at South Avenue and Mathews Road in which Cessna reportedly had a baseball bat and a knife and threatened the officer.

Boardman officer Evan Beil stopped Cessna for suspicious activity, including riding on the wrong side of the road at night, Boardman police Chief Todd Werth told The Vindicator shortly after the incident.

When Beil approached, Cessna held a knife in his hand and came toward the officer, a police report states.

“At some point, the interaction turned into a confrontation,” Werth has said. Beil gave “repeated commands to drop the knife before he discharged his weapon,” Werth said, adding that Beil “feared for his life.”

Magistrate Nicole Alexander ordered Cessna to have no contact with Beil. Cessna remains in the Mahoning County jail in lieu of $15,000 bond.

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