Defendant’s testimony closes out aggravated murder trial, deliberations continue

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Rob Andrews, Mahoning County assistant prosecutor is seen showing an illustration Thursday to jurors during closing arguments in the Mekhi Venable aggravated murder trial.

YOUNGSTOWN — After listening to testimony from multiple eyewitnesses this week on either side of a dispute that led to Jacob Moore, 21, being shot to death on New York Avenue Sept. 29, 2022, jurors were given the task Thursday of sorting through testimony to determine who was telling the truth.

Did Moore have a handgun when he was shot or was he approaching the car of defendant Mekhi Venable with the intention of having a fistfight? The witnesses disagreed on that point, some saying Moore had a gun, others saying he did not.

Venable, 20, who is charged with aggravated murder and murder, testified as the last witness of the trial Wednesday afternoon and again Thursday morning.

After closing arguments of counsel and jury instructions, the jury began deliberations after lunch Thursday, but were unable to reach a verdict by 5 p.m. They will resume deliberations this morning.

When Pat Fening, county assistant prosecutor, cross examined Venable, Fening asked whether Venable illegally possessed a firearm the day of the killing, and Venable answered “Yes I did.”

“Where is the gun now?” Fening asked.

“I don’t know,” Venable said.

“Did you get rid of it after you murdered Jacob?” Fening asked.

“No,” Venable said, as his attorney, John Juhasz, objected to the question, but Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney overruled the objection.

When Venable was asked what he did with the gun, Venable said “I don’t know.”

Venable was also asked about a confrontation that took place at Venable’s house on Logan Avenue a short time before the fatal encounter. Venable’s home is not far from the part of New York Avenue where the shooting took place.

Venable said Moore and two other male relatives arrived with guns. Venable was not armed, he said. Moore made threats that caused Venable and his girlfriend to be in fear of being shot, but no shots were fired, Venable said.

The three males were still at Venble’s house when Venable drove off about three minutes later, Venable said. The three men followed him a little, but Venable drove fast and said he couldn’t see their vehicle after that.

Venable picked up his cousin and drove to New York Avenue, where Venable’s best friend lived. Then Moore and his relatives showed up on New York Avenue. Moore had a handgun and walked toward Venable’s car, saying he was going to kill Venable, Venable said.


In the prosecution’s closing argument, Rob Andrews, assistant county prosecutor, said three witnesses to the shooting testified the same way during the trial: Two cars containing Moore and his friends were parked on New York Avenue in the wrong direction. When Venable arrived, he parked on the opposite side of the street, also facing the wrong direction.

“There’s words exchanged and there is an agreement to put down the guns. We’re going to have a friendly fight. Jacob (Moore) has the tan gun. He gives it to (a male who arrived with him), who eventually is going to put it in his car” with other guns. No one had a weapon at that point, Andrews said.

Andrews suggested that if any of Moore’s friends had weapons on them at the time of the shooting “Wouldn’t they have used them” to shoot Venable after Venable shot Moore?

“Jacob never had a chance,” Andrews said. “There was no gun on him. From the testimony of everybody (Moore) gave up his gun to have this friendly fight,” Andrews said. After Venable pulled out a gun from his car and shot Moore, Venable drove away, Andrews said.

Part of Venable’s self-defense claim is that his car was “blocked in” by the other people and cars, but “by everyone’s account, as soon as he fired those two shots, he just (drove) up the street,” Andrews said. “He wasn’t blocked in.”

Police arrived a couple of minutes later and an assault rifle and three handguns were found in the front seat of one of the cars that Moore and his friends arrived in, Andrews said.


In the defense’s closing arguments, Juhasz questioned the prosecution’s contention that Moore planned to have a fistfight with Venable.

“He came to fight? A physical fight? No, he didn’t,” Juhasz said. “He didn’t offer a physical fight on Logan Avenue a half an hour earlier.”

He said Venable “never got out of the car with a gun and was back in the car as the shots occurred. Why? Because (Venable’s friend’s mother) said ‘I don’t want you guys here doing this. Get out of here,'” Juhasz said.

Venable was “ready to leave.” But Moore was “walking toward Mekhi with an FN pistol. And when someone is walking at you like that saying ‘I’ll kill you,’ there’s not a lot of time to think about … is he really going to shoot me in the middle of the street in the daylight? There’s no time to think about that.”

Juhasz said Venable kept his gun “under his seat, hoping he would never have to use it, but he did. And he did it for one reason, because Jacob Moore didn’t put that gun down, didn’t hand it to his brother. He walked toward Mekhi and said ‘I’ll kill you.'”


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