Cold-case murder trial in Youngstown zooms in on DNA, blood
YOUNGSTOWN — More than a year after Glenna J. White, 16, disappeared after Robert L. Moore drove her from a Smith Township home near Alliance, a Smith Township police officer was alerted that his department should take over the investigation.
Sgt. George Starr, a sergeant with the Smith Township Police Department who also works full time for the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, testified Thursday in Moore’s aggravated murder trial that he began his investigation into White’s disappearance on Aug. 8, 2010.
Moore is charged with aggravated murder in Glenna’s presumed murder. Her body was never found.
Starr said the Stark County Sheriff’s Office had the case, but when deputies determined that White had gone missing from a home in Smith Township in Mahoning County, instead of Stark County, “they turned the investigation over to my department.”
Glenna, of Smith Township, was visiting a home at 22241 Alden Ave. in Smith Township on June 2, 2009, when she woke up others in the home with the allegation that Moore had touched her inappropriately or tried to rape her, prosecutors have said.
Moore then “demanded to take (White) home, left with her in (Moore’s girlfriend’s) car, and was gone for over an hour, returning without her,” prosecutors have said. Moore had blood spatter on his clothing when he returned and said it came from a bar fight, prosecutors said.
Starr said that after he took over the case, he interviewed several people and got assistance from an investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ed Carlini, an Ohio BCI crime-scene investigator. After consulting with John Ausnehmer, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor, on Aug. 12, 2010, Starr obtained a search warrant for the home on Alden so that Carlini could collect possible blood evidence from the home.
Starr said Moore was his suspect in the case throughout the early days of the investigation, and Moore continued to be his suspect as the investigation proceeded.
Starr spoke with Elizabeth White, Glenna’s mother, and took a DNA sample from her. Because she is a close relative to Glenna, her DNA could be used if needed to determine whether any of Glenna White’s DNA had been found during the investigation, Starr said.
Starr also obtained Glenna White’s dental records, but he never got to use them, he said. He also never located White or her body and never substantiated anyone’s claim that they had seen Glenna White alive after June 2, 2009, Starr said.
Starr testified that he and others investigated information that White might be at a home on North Mechanic Street in Alliance and described law enforcement surveillance being carried out at the home to try to determine whether White was there. He also spoke to neighbors, but no evidence of White was found.
The last work Starr did on the case was in 2013, he said.
Carlini also testified Thursday, describing a piece of wood trim he removed from near a bathroom in the home on Alden and a rug that was near the front door of the home. He said he tested both items, and they both came back as having blood on them, so he submitted them to BCI’s lab for analysis.
Later testimony indicated that the results of the DNA analysis were “inconclusive” as to whether any of the DNA belonged to a child of Elizabeth White, saying the samples were not large enough to get a result. Other sample results excluded a child of Elizabeth White as being the source of the DNA.
Also testifying Thursday was Jessica Sanders, 28 of Alliance, who was best friends with Glenna White in the couple of years before White disappeared when Sanders was 14 or 15.
Sanders said White stayed at the Sanders home for weeks or months at a time in the couple of years before White disappeared because Glenna’s family “was not what she was looking for,” adding Glenna “desperately wanted stability and love and that familial connection.” Sanders said she felt Glenna got that when she stayed with the Sanders’ family.
The only time Glenna would go home was to get Glenna’s medications, she said.
But about a week before Jenna disappeared, the Sanders family moved from the the home near Glenna’s house to Canton, and Glenna had to go back home because Canton was too far from Glenna’s home, Sanders said.
Under questioning by Mike Yacovone, assistant county prosecutor, Sanders agreed that if White had needed a place to go,the Sanders family would have taken her in again, but they never saw Glenna again. Sanders said she did not have her own cellphone to try to contact Glenna after Glenna disappeared.
Sanders said she did not remember if she tried to contact Glenna, but “I believe I would have called her somehow.” She said Glenna was “quite a normal teenager” during the time Sanders’ mother took care of Glenna getting her medicine.
Sanders said one reason Glenna had to go back home was over financial issues the Sanders family was having. “We did not have electricity, we did not have water, we did not have food. It was not exactly a suitable environment,” Sanders said.
The trial resumes today.