City woman sentenced for arson
YOUNGSTOWN — Cheree T. Moore, 43, was sentenced to 23 to 28 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for setting fire to a home on Regent Street on the South Side on Aug. 13, 2021 — arson that caused burns to the neck and arm of the woman inside.
Moore, of West LaClede Avenue, was convicted at trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court of two counts of aggravated arson and a specification of being a repeat violent offender. The injured woman was Moore’s babysitter.
Testimony indicated that Moore left two of her children with the babysitter the night before. Moore picked up the children the next day but later returned to allege that another child the babysitter was watching that night “touched” one of Moore’s children inappropriately.
The babysitter testified that Moore made a threat early Aug. 13 after picking up her two children, testifying she had known Moore nearly 30 years and had done babysitting for her other times in the past.
It led to Youngstown police coming to the Regent Street home to investigate the allegations, the babysitter testified. The child who allegedly was sexually assaulted was taken to the hospital to be evaluated, the babysitter testified.
While Moore was there with the police, Moore complained that two of the utilities for the babysitter’s home were off — the gas and water.
The police officer told Moore: “We’re not here for that. You’ve got to take that up with housing,” the babysitter testified.
Moore’s response was: “This house is going to be down. I’m going to shut this house down,” the babysitter said. She agreed that the side door to the house did not work at the time of the fire and was boarded up, but the front and rear doors worked.
The babysitter testified that Moore left and returned later with crack cocaine and a man the babysitter did not know well. The babysitter and the man went in the babysitter’s house, and they smoked the crack cocaine, the babysitter said. It took about 10 or 15 minutes, and then the babysitter fell asleep, she said. Prosecutors say that is when Moore started the fire.
The first aggravated arson charge, which related to the babysitter, resulted in a prison sentence of 11 to 16 1/2 years in prison.
A jury in Judge Maureen Sweeney’s courtroom also found Moore guilty of a lesser felony aggravated arson charge that named the owner of the home, who was not there at the time of the fire, as the victim. That offense accounted for two years of Moore’s sentence.
The repeat violent offender specification was because Moore pleaded guilty in December 2000 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to voluntary manslaughter with a gun specification. She was sentenced to six years in prison. She was released in February 2005. The repeat violent offender specification added 10 years to her sentence. Prosecutors asked the judge to give Moore 27 to 32 1/2 years in prison.
During Moore’s trial, prosecutors presented surveillance video from a church on Oakhill Avenue down the street showing a car on Regent Street backing into the driveway of the home of the victim a short time before the fire began.
Now-retired Youngstown fire investigator Kurt Wright was on the witness stand at the time, describing the car as being the same type as the one Moore was driving that day — right down to the gas-cap door that witnesses said Moore’s car lacked.
Jurors could see a shadowy figure walking from the car toward the back of the house and a shadowy figure walking the opposite direction back toward the car and toward the front porch of the home. It was about noon.
Wright also described smoke starting to come from the front of the home as the car pulled back out onto the street. The video wasn’t clear enough to identify the person in the car, but was clear enough to see the person and the car.
The video confirmed the account the babysitter gave of one of the encounters she had with Moore that day, Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews told jurors in closing arguments.
Moore spoke to the judge before sentencing, saying, “I’m not a monster,” but said her alcoholism is the worst form of addiction there is. She said her actions also were the result of her child being “touched.”
Before sentencing, Moore’s attorney, Mark Lavelle, told the judge that Moore has a lengthy criminal record but said “80 to 90 percent” of it is because of alcohol consumption or abuse.
He said the incidents that occurred Aug. 12 and Aug. 13, 2021, were the result of alcohol consumption by Moore and others, including the victim. He noted that the house that burned was “red-tagged” for demolition. “The parties were pretty much drinking all night and into the next day before the quarreling began,” Lavelle said.
Lavelle also told the judge he objects to her sentencing Moore under the indefinite sentencing law known as Regan Tokes because the Ohio Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the law, and “I don’t know if it is going to survive a constitutional challenge.” He said Moore will appeal her convictions and sentencing.