Mother of slain boy won’t be asked to ID shooter
YOUNGSTOWN — Prosecutors say they intend to put the mother of 4-year-old Rowan Sweeney on the stand to testify in the trial of defendant Kimonie Bryant, but they will not ask her to identify who killed her son and shot her.
Assistant prosecutors revealed that information in a filing in the Bryant case last week, saying that because Alexis Schneider is both a witness to the shootings and a victim, she can testify regarding the “tragic events of Sept. 21, 2020, at trial. However, (prosecutors) do not intend to ask Ms. Schneider to identify the shooter at trial.”
It adds that prosecutors also will not ask any other witnesses about what Schneider had said in the past about the identity of the shooter.
Authorities have said that Schneider, mother of Rowan, has given conflicting statements about who the shooter is, identifying Bryant initially and later changing her identification to co-defendant Brandon Crump.
Her boyfriend, Yarnell Green, also changed his identification of the shooter from Bryant to Green, Struthers police officer Dan Mamula testified at a hearing in February. Green was killed in a dispute with another man outside a downtown Youngstown tavern in September.
Bryant and Crump are charged with aggravated murder in Rowan’s death and attempted murder in the shootings of four adults Sept. 21, 2020, in a home on Perry Street in Struthers. Rowan was visiting the home with his mother and Green at the time of the shootings.
The prosecutor filing is in response to Bryant’s motion asking that Schneider’s initial identification of Bryant as the shooter be suppressed from evidence because it took place at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital — shortly after she had been shot and was “heavily sedated.”
The Sept. 20 filing by defense attorney John Juhasz states that Schneider’s identification of Bryant from a police photo array also is “tainted” by “unduly suggestive procedures.”
Specifically, police showed her a photo lineup early Sept. 21, and she could not identify the shooter. But when Struthers police Capt. Dan Mamula returned the next day, he mentioned that a warrant for Bryant’s arrest had been issued in the case, and that day she identified Bryant as the shooter from a single photo, according to the Juhasz filing.
Juhasz asked for that identification to be suppressed as “unreliable.”
The judge has not ruled yet on the motion to suppress.
Bryant does not yet have a trial date, but it is possible a trial date for Bryant will be set during the next pretrial hearing in his case at 2 p.m. Dec. 14. The setting of trial dates in the Bryant and Crump cases has been on hold, dependent upon the results of DNA testing. Prosecutors have said whoever the DNA results indicate is the shooter will be tried first.
The DNA results were provided to prosecutors by a private lab in Virginia Nov. 18, and prosecutors notified the defense attorneys for Bryant and Crump that they could view the results the following Monday. The parties in the case are barred from discussing the evidence in the case outside of court filings and hearings, so the public has not been told what the DNA results have shown.
But attorneys for Bryant filed a motion last week asking for a plethora of additional “scientific materials” from prosecutors and the DNA lab regarding the testing the lab carried out on materials collected in the case.
For example, the filing asks for the lab and prosecutors to turn over “reports of laboratory contamination and other laboratory problems affecting testing procedures or results relevant to the evaluation of procedures and test results obtained in the case and corrective actions taken in response.”
The filing also asks that prosecutors and the lab turn over “a list of collected items for which there is reason to believe contained DNA evidence but have been destroyed or lost or otherwise become unavailable.”
It also asks for “records of unexpected or unexplained allele detection and possible contamination.” According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, an allele is “one of two or more versions of DNA sequence … at a given genomic location. An individual inherits two alleles, one from each parent, for any given genomic location where such variation exists.”
The filing asks that Bode Technology, the Virginia lab that carried out the testing, provide “copies of all documents, notes and / or reports, including draft reports and any editing performed by any Bode Technology personnel.”
The defense team includes an expert witness in DNA analysis. The filing states that the materials the defense seeks from Bode Technology are needed by the expert witness “to be able to perform his analysis. The report alone is insufficient for such purposes.”
The filing also takes issue with prosecutors referring to Bode Technology as an “independent” lab, saying it is the lab prosecutors chose after they learned that the state’s DNA lab, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, would not allow the defense witness to witness the testing procedures.
“The defense did not choose this lab. The defense, the record will reveal, wanted BCI, part of the State of Ohio, to conduct the tests,” the filing states.
Prosecutors have not responded yet to the defense motion.
Many of the charges in Crump’s case were dismissed in common pleas court last month, and prosecutors said they would refile them in Mahoning County Juvenile Court. Prosecutors said they would ask their juvenile prosecutor to refile the murder, attempted murder and felonious assault charges against Crump in juvenile court to cure the defects in the way Crump was indicted in adult court without having first been bound over from juvenile court on those charges.
As of Tuesday, they had not been refiled in juvenile court, said Wes Skeels, juvenile court administrator.
Crump was a juvenile at the time of the shootings.