3rd person at scene of fatal shooting planned to testify against defendant

YOUNGSTOWN — The Dec. 22, 2020, fatal shooting of Jolonda Murry, 27, of Warren in a car on Halleck Street involved the victim, Gregory D. Richardson II, 38, and a second man — who would have testified that Richardson purposely shot Murry, an assistant prosecutor said Tuesday.

Richardson pleaded guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification in Murry’s death, and robbery for a separate incident in which Richardson robbed a dollar store on Glenwood Avenue three days earlier.

Richardson was sentenced to 25 to 30 years in prison.

Mike Yacovone, assistant county prosecutor, said Richardson was charged with aggravated murder, a crime that alleges an intentional killing, because the third male in the car, Phillip D. Whitman II, 46, of Cassius Avenue, told police Richardson shot Murry on purpose.

Whitman went directly to the police after Murry’s killing and brought them the gun, Yacovone said.

Richardson told Judge Anthony D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court prior to sentencing that the incident involved a “feud” between him and Whitman.

Richardson apologized to Murry’s family before sentencing, saying: “I want the family to know that young woman have done nothing wrong to me, and this death was not intentional. She just happened to be a bystander in an ongoing feud between me and Phil Whitman. And I’m sorry that this happened.”

Yacovone said there was an argument between Richardson and Whitman, but prosecutors would have argued at trial that the gun belonged to Richardson, and that Richardson shot Murry. Then, Richardson and Whitman struggled over the gun, Yacovone said.

Richardson would have argued that the gun belonged to Whitman and that Murry was killed in a struggle over the gun, Yacovone said.


Richardson wrote a number of letters to prosecutors and the judge from the county jail before his guilty plea, Yacovone said. “Richardson told a lot of stories,” he said.

One thing prosecutors had to consider is that Whitman was sentenced to five years and eight months in federal prison in November for robbing the First National Bank in downtown Youngstown in November 2021. Whitman is in federal prison.

Another factor is that crack cocaine was being smoked in the car at the time of the shooting, Yacovone said.

“There are a lot of questions as to what was going on in the car, so we think that was a good outcome,” Yacovone said of the plea agreement.

Murry’s family did not want a trial. And because the plea agreement was jointly recommended by the prosecution and defense, there will not be an appeal, and the case will have finality, Yacovone said.

If the case had gone to trial, there was a “fair chance” the outcome would have been about the same as the plea and sentence, Yacovone said. The family was happy with the 25 to 30 years, Yacovone said.

Law enforcement obtained the gun used in Murry’s death, and prosecutors believe it is the same gun Richardson fired in the robbery he committed at the dollar store three days before he killed Murry.

Richardson fired the gun into the air during the robbery, and the bullet was recovered, Yacovone said. It was tested, but the bullet was damaged too badly for it to be used to compare to the bullet in Murry’s killing, he noted.



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