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Co-defendant names Turner as killer in ’16 East Side death

YOUNGSTOWN — Ranee Fitzgerald, who is married to aggravated murder defendant D’Aundre Turner and has a child with him, testified Wednesday she set up a March 16, 2016, meeting with Omar R. Croom, 22, near the ESA Apartments on the East Side at Turner’s direction and saw Turner shoot Croom.

Fitzgerald, 25, testified for several hours Wednesday, the second day of testimony in the trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Her several hours of testimony is likely to be critical in whether a jury finds Turner guilty or innocent, and defense attorney Frank Cassese tried to zero in on any discrepancies in her testimony to try to undermine her credibility.

Under questioning by Pat Fening, assistant county prosecutor, she confirmed much of what prosecutors laid out in opening statements on Tuesday — that she lured Croom over the social-media app Kik to a wooded area near the apartments, where Croom thought he was going to have sex with her, but which Turner intended as a way to commit a robbery.

Fitzgerald, who was 15 at the time, walked with Turner, then 18, and met with Croom near a pull-off on Oak Street Extension. But when she got to Croom’s vehicle, she could no longer see Turner, and the situation got contentious as she got into the back seat of Croom’s vehicle, and Croom “started cussing,” she said. She quickly got back out and fled from him into the darkness of a wooded area near the Speed Check gas station, she said.

A short time later, as she again tried to get away from Croom, she “screamed I’m a minor. I’m calling the police. And then he proceeded to walk back to his truck, and then he got shot,” she said. “After the second one, I took off running,” she said. She heard more shots as she ran, she said.

When Fening asked Fitzgerald if she saw who shot Croom, she said yes.

“Who was that?” Fening asked.

“D’Aundre Turner,” she replied.

The trial, being presided over by Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney, resumes this morning with more testimony through at least part of the day. She and Turner “left the scene at the same time, and he walked me back to the ESA Apartment, deleted pictures of us on social media.” A short time later, he broke her phone in half. They went inside Turner’s uncle’s apartment in the ESA Apartments but then left and he walked her back to her mother’s apartment in Austintown, she said.

After they got to the apartment in Austintown, Turner left and “stopped communication with me for about a month,” she said.

The next day after the killing “I tried to kill myself,” she said. When asked why, she said “Because I seen someone get killed, and I couldn’t take it.” She later testified it was the second time she had tried to commit suicide. The first time was after her father died when she was 12.

She spoke to a police detective, but did not tell him what she knew about Croom’s death and loved Turner. Eventually she took a plea agreement with an assistant prosecutor after she “prayed about it,” she said.

Next up, Frank Cassese, Turner’s attorney, aggressively and rapidly questioned Fitzgerald, who agreed that she “lied” for the first seven years after Croom was killed but told the truth Wednesday because “You want to do the right thing and you’ve made peace with God. Is that true?”

“Yes,” she said.

He asked her whether she used the app Kik “to sell sex,” and she answered “No.” She agreed that she did use Facebook to sell pictures as a stripper after she turned 18.

He asked if she was selling sex in 2016, and she said no. The text messages with Croom about sex acts for $60 were not about her selling sex. “D’Aundre told me to do that,” she said.

Under questioning, she said she picked Croom as the person Turner would rob, but she did not know him. He showed up on a list of people on Kik who wanted to meet her. She knew of Croom but did not know him personally, she said.

Cassese then asked her questions about the moments when Croom was shot, and Fitzgerald said it happened just after she told Croom that she was calling police. By the second shot, she took off running into the woods.

Cassese then asked her about the last message on Kik from Croom, which he said was at 1:13 a.m., and the 911 call regarding Croom’s body being found was at about 1:26 a.m. But Fitzgerald’s Kik account texted Croom at 1:21 a.m., saying “Who is this?”

Fitzgerald said the way the message was sent was the way Turner texts, not the way she does. And she said Turner would have been able to log onto her Kik account and send that text.

Under further questioning by Cassese, she agreed that her bail was $1 million when she was charged with complicity to aggravated murder in Croom’s death, but after she took a plea deal to testify against Turner, she was able to leave jail without paying anything and was promised probation and no prison time.

“I cooperated after talking to God and then I took the deal and I walked back out,” she said. She said she was willing to stay in jail in 2023 because “that is how much I loved him, but then I realized I loved myself more, so I took the deal.”

She was pregnant with another man’s child at the time, she agreed. “I asked God what should I do,” she said.

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

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