Mother of man convicted in Struthers boy’s killing gets probation

YOUNGSTOWN — The mother of one of the three men involved in the Sept. 21, 2020, shooting death of 4-year-old Rowan Sweeney was sentenced Thursday for destroying her son’s cellphone after the killing.

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony D’Apolito told LaShawn A. Scott that she should have convinced Kimonie Bryant to “do the right thing from the start” after he participated in a robbery that led to the killing of Sweeney.

Instead, Scott destroyed Bryant’s cellphone and got him another one the day after the shooting at a home on Perry Street in Struthers. Four adults also were shot.

Still, the Struthers Police Department and others were able to obtain the evidence they needed to convict Bryant, 27, and co-defendants Brandon Crump Jr., 21, and Andre McCoy Jr., 24, the judge said.

“It wasn’t because of her assistance, and it wasn’t because she made it any easier. She tried to prevent that, but they overcame that,” the judge said.

Scott, 46, pleaded guilty earlier to tampering with evidence for destroying the phone. On Thursday, D’Apolito gave Scott two years of probation and ordered her to perform 50 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said the loss of the phone did not prevent them from obtaining crucial information about Bryant’s involvement in the case.

The tampering charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. Jennifer Bonish, assistant county prosecutor, asked the judge to sentence Scott to probation and no prison time.

“In looking at the facts surrounding Ms. Scott’s involvement, it is certainly not lost on the state — and I’m sure the court — the severity of the underlying crime,” Bonish said. “We know we have Rowan Sweeney, a child who was murdered. We know we have other individuals who were shot,” she said.

“Fortunately, the investigators with the Struthers Police Department were able to gather information from other sources, from Andre McCoy’s phone, from data from the cellphone provider, from Facebook, from other areas,” Bonish said.

“So we were still able to get those text messages that you heard about at defendant Crump’s trial that Kimonie Bryant sent back and forth with McCoy. We were also able to pinpoint Kimonie Bryant’s location on that night and to move him around to the scene of the crime and back to his residence,” she said.

“We didn’t lose information. However, Ms. Scott certainly did try to deprive us of that information, which would have hindered the investigation,” Bonish said.

The judge told Scott to perform the community service in a way that “helps people in our community.”

“I think you understand how much this matter hurt our community. I think you should make some reparations to help.”

He also reserved three years of prison that could be imposed if Scott violates the terms and conditions of her probation. Scott did not speak when asked if she wanted to offer any information.

Rowan’s father, David Sweeney, and his wife, Bailey, were in court for the hearing, but they did not offer any remarks before Scott’s sentencing.

Scott’s attorney, Michael Kivlighan, said probation for Scott was jointly recommended by the prosecution and defense.

“She’s a mother. She was put in a very difficult position, but what I think is very important for this court is that since her arrest nearly three years ago and while she has been out on bond to this court, she had followed every rule and direction from this court. She has appeared at every hearing. She has not gotten into trouble,” Kivlighan said.

D’Apolito responded, “I understand her role as a mother and her inclination to help her son. I would have hoped that as a mother, she would have pushed her son to do the right thing from the start.”

But her misdeeds did not stop investigators from obtaining the evidence and that “is why I am willing to go along with this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bryant and McCoy, who each pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated murder, and Crump, who was convicted of aggravated murder and other charges, await sentencing.

Have an interesting story? Contact Ed Runyan by email at erunyan@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


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