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Jury finds D’Aundre Turner not guilty in ’16 aggravated murder case

D’Aundre Turner thanks his attorney, Frank Cassese, after a jury found Turner not guilty Monday on all counts in Turner’s aggravated murder trial.

YOUNGSTOWN — Frank Cassese, attorney for D’Aundre Turner, 26, of Boardman, said he thinks the jury that found Turner not guilty on all counts Monday questioned the credibility of Turner’s co-defendant, who testified last week.

“I think we were able to catch her in multiple lies on the stand,” he said of Ranee Fitzgerald, after talking to jurors.

“We didn’t think from the beginning that they had enough evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that is what the jury said, that there wasn’t anything there on my guy to convict,” Cassese said.

Fitzgerald and Youngstown Police detective Jessica Shields were the two key witnesses, and both were on the witness stand for hours during the trial, which began Tuesday and continued into Friday. Deliberations were delayed Friday when the smell of natural gas in the downtown area caused many downtown buildings to be evacuated, including the Mahoning County Courthouse, where the trial was in the deliberation phase.

The jurors, who were at lunch, were contacted not to return to the courthouse. They all returned Monday to continue deliberations, which only took about 20 more minutes before they found Turner not guilty of aggravated murder, murder and aggravated robbery.

Turner was charged in the 2016 shooting death of Omar R. Croom, 22, on Youngstown’s East Side. Croom was found with gunshot wounds in the middle of Oak Street Extension.

If Turner had been found guilty of aggravated murder, he would have gotten a life prison sentence. Instead, after the verdicts, Turner was led back to the Mahoning County jail, where he was going to be released. He had been locked up for about 13 months awaiting trial.

Fitzgerald, 25, testified she is married to Turner and has a child with him. She said she set up a March 16, 2016, meeting with Croom near the ESA Apartments on the East Side at Turner’s direction and saw Turner shoot Croom.

Fitzgerald said that she was 15 when she communicated with Croom, who she knew of but did not know personally, over the social media app Kik. Croom thought he was meeting up with Fitzgerald for sex in a wooded area near the ESA Apartments on the East Side. She said Turner directed her on how to talk to Croom.

Fitzgerald said she walked with Turner, then 18, to meet up with Croom near a pull-off on Oak Street Extension. But when she got to Croom’s vehicle, she could no longer see Turner. She said the situation got contentious as she got into the back seat of Croom’s vehicle, and Croom “started cussing.” 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, and “screamed I’m a minor. I’m calling the police.” Then he walked back to his truck, and then he got shot, she said. After the second shot, she said she took off running. She heard more shots as she ran, she said.

When Pat Fening, an assistant county prosecutor, asked Fitzgerald if she saw who shot Croom, she said yes.

“Who was that?” Fening asked.

“D’Aundre Turner,” she replied.

Under questioning by Cassese, Fitzgerald 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,” she said. She was willing to stay in jail during part of 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.

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

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