×

Ph.D. candidate found guilty of attempted murder in Youngstown

Staff photos / Ed Runyan Davelle Heath, left, stands with his attorneys, Patrick and Joe Moro, as guilty verdicts were read in Heath’s attempted murder trial Wednesday. In the galley are Heath’s supporters.

YOUNGSTOWN — A little while after Katrina Turner and a tense courtroom of people heard Judge Anthony D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court announce that Davelle Heath had been found guilty of attempted murder and felonious assault Wednesday, Turner gave a poignant summation of how she felt.

“I’m just glad he didn’t get away with murder,” Turner said.

Heath, 28, who lived with his mother and siblings in Turner’s Truesdale Avenue home on the East Side for a couple of years when he was a boy, wasn’t charged with murder.

But Heath did shoot Turner in the head at close range outside of Turner’s home late March 21, 2022, causing part of Turner’s skull to come off and for her to fall to the ground.

Prosecutors would call the wound a “very deep graze” that led to hearing loss and other disabilities, but not death.

Turner realized she was still conscious as she lay in the yard, calling for help and finally decided to get up, walk to her house and go inside, where she remained with her two housemates until police arrived.

Turner’s injuries prevented her from talking clearly, so she wrote Heath’s name on an envelope provided by a Youngstown police officer, along with the name and address of Heath’s grandmother, who lives up the street from Turner.

Turner said she did that “In case I died, they would know where to look.”

When the guilty verdicts were read, including gun specifications, Judge D’Apolito revoked Heath’s bond, saying it made the judge uncomfortable that Heath had been free on bond throughout most of the case. However, Heath’s presumption of innocence was gone, so D’Apolito decided Heath was going to jail.

Heath could get more than 10 years in prison.

Turner testified that she recognized Heath when he walked up to her about 10:30 p.m. outside of her home. She had gone to her car to get her reading glasses when she saw Heath. They spoke casually for about five minutes before she turned to her car to put the key in the lock and open it.

That’s when she fell to the ground, not hearing any gunshot or realizing immediately she had been shot. Heath looked at her momentarily and then left quickly, she said.

When Turner was asked after the verdict why she thinks Heath shot her, she said “I have no idea,” but the way he did it was not uncharacteristic of the way he behaved as a boy.

“He used to do the same thing as a kid,” Turner said. “He would smile at somebody’s face and then as soon as they turned around, he would attack him. He did the same thing to me. He waited for me to turn my back and attacked me.”

Heath’s grandmother and Turner had been in a relationship years earlier.

A defendant does not have to testify on their behalf, and jurors are instructed not to draw any conclusions if a defendant does not take the stand.

Not only did several people testify on his behalf, but Heath also testified.

Heath testified to living in Youngstown as a boy but living with his family in Texas and Kentucky, graduating from high school and college in the latter. He testified he has a master’s degree and has been working on his Ph.D. in law-related coursework in England.

He also testified about the reasons he was in Youngstown for a couple of days at the time of the shooting and talked about the birthday party for him and his stepsister that took place the night Turner was shot in the head.

Heath testified that the focus of his Ph.D. studies is legal research. He has been able to continue his studies despite his pending criminal charges and is in his final year, he said. He said his thesis is on “male victims of sexual assault by women.”

He said he was working for Survivors UK, a nonprofit organization in England that works with “nonbiinary, trans and men who have been sexually assaulted.” His job was to help individuals through the legal process, along with other things.

Heath said he came home in March 2022 because his father’s brother had died and Heath was not able to come home at that time. So, he wanted to see his father, daughter and other relatives.

Under questioning by his attorney, Patrick Moro, Heath said the last time he had seen Turner was when he was a child. Turner was known as Donald Turner at that time. Heath said he did not know Turner had transitioned to a female until after this case arose.

He said he left Youngstown at about age 11 or 12. He knew Turner because she was the director of a drill team for kids.

The last time he came to Youngstown before 2022 was the summer of 2019, he said. He denied Turner’s testimony that he and Turner saw each other briefly at Heath’s mother’s house about four years ago.

Heath then answered questions about a photo on Facebook that Youngstown police detectives said showed Heath with part of a gun sticking out of his back pocket the day before Turner was shot.

Under cross examination by Steve Maszczak, Heath read from grand jury transcripts in which Heath told the grand jury on Sept. 8, 2022, that at the time the object was in his pocket, “I thought it was a gun.” Later in Heath’s testimony, under questioning by Moro, he said he later learned the object was a child’s b.b. gun.

When Maszczak asked him about the night Turner was shot, he agreed that at about 11 p.m., he called his grandmother because his grandmother had called his father about a woman having been shot on Truesdale Avenue.

Heath agreed that he was told that a woman living near his grandmother had been shot that night and the police told his grandmother about the name Davelle. He agreed he was in Atlanta about a week later trying to return to England when authorities took him into custody regarding the shooting.

Maszczak asked Heath, “Did you ever think about calling your grandma and saying “What was all that about? Maybe there’s something I can do, some information I can provide, maybe help the police or at least — I don’t know how many Davelles are in town — but maybe you could at least exonerate yourself. You don’t do that?”

Heath said he called his father in Kentucky.

When asked more questions by Moro, Heath said the police never contacted him about the case. And when Moro asked if Heath injured Turner, Heath said, “No, I did not.”

erunyan@vindy.com

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

Starting at $4.85/week.

Subscribe Today