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Jury selected for Youngstown triple murder trial

YOUNGSTOWN — Despite a one-day delay caused by weather and some potential jurors having COVID-19, a jury of 12 and four alternates was selected Tuesday in the trial of two men accused of killing a man, his 3-month-old son and the child’s mother on Nov. 7, 2019.

Opening statements and testimony will be given today in the trial of Shainquon Sharpe, 25, of Columbus, and Taquashon Ray, 25, of Youngstown. They are accused of shooting to death Edward Morris, 21; Valarcia Blair, 19, and her child, Tariq Morris.

The trial was pushed back from Monday to Tuesday by bad weather.

But before jury selection began Tuesday, defense attorney Lou DeFabio asked Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to postpone the trial because of COVID-19.

He said three potential jurors tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday. He asked what happens if a juror has COVID-19 during the trial.

“We have already had some jurors who expressed fears of COVID. We no longer have (clear, plastic barriers between the jurors and others in the courtroom). We are not socially distancing. We’re up to 20,000 cases per day” in Ohio, DeFabio said.

But the judge said the case numbers are “going down.” She overruled the motion.

If convicted of aggravated murder, Sharpe and Ray could get a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Authorities called the shootings an “ambush” for which Morris was the target. Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said in November 2019 the baby and Blair were “with Mr. Morris in his vehicle” at the time.

Gains said Morris knew Sharpe, and the two men had arranged to meet. Sharpe and Ray “opened fire, resulting in the three deaths,” Gains said. Morris was armed and was able to fire at least one shot, Gains said.

Sharpe and Ray were indicted on multiple counts of aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and other offenses.

erunyan@vindy.com

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