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2 get up to life in prison in killing of Rowan Sweeney in 2020

David Sweeney gives a victim impact statement Wednesday during the sentencing for Andre McCoy Jr., 24. McCoy and Kimonie Bryant, 27, received life prison sentences for their roles in the 2020 shooting death of Sweeney’s son, Rowan Sweeney, 4.

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony D’Apolito called Kimonie Bryant the “lynchpin” in the Sept. 21, 2020, killing of Rowan Sweeney, 4, before sentencing Bryant to 20 years to life in prison.

It was the sentence recommended by prosecutors and the defense in Bryant’s plea agreement.

Bryant, 27, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in Rowan’s death and agreed to testify against co-defendant Brandon Crump Jr. in exchange for a lesser prison sentence than he would have gotten if he would have been convicted of all charges.

Bryant was initially thought to be the shooter who walked into a house on Perry Street and shot four adults and the boy. Rowan’s mother, Alexis Schneider, begged the shooter not to hurt her son. Later, one of the adult victims, Yarnell Green, testified in juvenile court that Crump, 21, was the shooter. Crump was 17 at the time. DNA evidence seemed to support Green’s identification of Crump as the shooter and supported the theory that Bryant was the driver and organizer of a robbery at the home that turned into the shooting death of a sleeping little boy.

The judge said the frustrating thing about Bryant is he “had many people trying to help you, people always supported you,” and the judge found that “uncommon” among defendants in his court.

“You have or were given chances to succeed in life that other people do not have, and you squandered them. When you were presented with the very simple choice of doing what was right or doing what was wrong, you chose the simple path of least resistance,” the judge said to Bryant.

“I’m not saying I would have expected you to stop this from happening when (co-defendant Andre McCoy Jr.) presented (the idea of robbing the house) and Brandon (Crump) came with his gun. That would have been heroic. At the very least, I would have hoped you would have walked away,” the judge said.

“You did not. And that is the tragedy because you were the lynchpin. And without you, this doesn’t happen. You knew Mr. McCoy and Mr. Crump. You connected them. If you wouldn’t have followed through on any part of this, the other two would not have joined, would not have caused the damage that collectively the three of you did,” D’Apolito said.

The judge said Bryant “connected” McCoy and Crump because McCoy, also sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, was inside the Perry Street home and saw that Green had lots of cash with him and alerted Bryant to it.

Bryant then enlisted the help of Crump to carry it out with him, according to testimony in Crump’s jury trial.

“It’s always easier to look back after the fact and see how many chances … how many ways it could not have happened — if the money had not gone to Mr. Green like it did, if you hadn’t gotten notice of it like you did,” the judge said. “If just one of those things would not have occurred, this would not have happened. So many people were harmed by it, and one little boy tragically lost his life.”

“You may not have pulled the trigger, but to me you were just as responsible for this tragedy,” the judge told Bryant. “You should feel nothing but shame, and these are thoughts that should overwhelm you.”

FATHER’S STATEMENT

During the hearing, David Sweeney, Rowan’s father, gave a victim impact statement, saying he lost his son “to a disgusting act of violence.” He said he was still in high school when Rowan was born, but he and Rowan grew up together.

“Rowan not only impacted my life drastically during his four short years on Earth, but after his murder he taught me the true definition of strength. Unfortunately, I have learned how to live with the heartache of losing a child,” Sweeney said.

Rowan has two little sisters, and “they see his bedroom, all his toys and his picture everywhere.” He said his wife, Bailey, “loved and cared for Rowan as her own” and was “shattered as she had a new piece of her heart and life stolen from her.”

Sweeney called Bryant’s actions “extremely reckless,” setting up the robbery with McCoy. “With having children of his own, I hope he understands what losing my son has done to my life.” He wished Bryant would have “owned up” to what he did in the beginning, not only after a plea deal was offered three years later.

Bryant also could have come forward the next day, “perhaps tell police that this wasn’t supposed to happen, had no clue (Crump) was going to shoot four people and murder a child.”

Sweeney called the four years since his son’s death “a roller coaster of emotions” and “agonizing uncertainty.” He said it is unfair that the three men will get the chance to be paroled.

Rowan’s mother, Alexis Schneider, also gave a statement, saying her son “was asleep in the comfort of his own home in my arms when we were both shot. My sweet angel was struck by multiple bullets with two fatal gunshot wounds.”

She said she held her hands against Rowan’s head to stop the blood “while also trying not to bleed out from your own injuries.”

She said she tried to stall giving Rowan to ambulance personnel “because you know that when your son is taken from your arms, you will never hold him again.”

MCCOY SENTENCING

During McCoy’s sentencing hearing, D’Apolito said the sentences were a way for the people who caused pain and trauma to “begin to pay.”

He said McCoy has paid “somewhat of a price. He had part of his head blown off.” It was a price “for the people he chose to associate with, for the acts he chose to embark upon.”

The judge said when he tried to consolidate what was at play when McCoy got involved in this episode, he concluded it was “simple greed. You saw money. It was not yours. For some reason you thought you were entitled to it. And by that simple sin, everything else followed.”

The judge said McCoy “had every opportunity to go out and earn that money, lawfully, employment, working hard, saving money, whatever it might be. That amount of money, it would have taken a month or two, three at the most to earn.”

The judge sentenced McCoy to the 15 years to life sentence recommended by prosecutors and the defense as part of McCoy’s plea agreement. He pleaded guilty to murder and testified at Crump’s trial, as required in McCoy’s plea agreement.

After McCoy recovered from being shot in the face, he left the hospital and could not be found. He was indicted in March 2021 on aggravated murder and other charges that could have resulted in the death penalty. Bryant also faced the death penalty until he reached his plea agreement.

Prosecutors have said McCoy was at the home on Perry Street in 2020 with his girlfriend, Cassandra Marsicola, and his cellphone showed that he was texting Marsicola expressing his desire to steal a couple thousand dollars from Green. Prosecutors said Green had recently gotten a check for about $5,000 and had cash that day.

Green was shot to death outside of a Youngstown bar in September 2022 in an apparently unrelated incident.

McCoy testified at Crump’s trial about texts he exchanged with Bryant while in the Perry Street home just prior to the shootings.

McCoy said during phone calls with Bryant, he detailed the plan — “Come in the front door, show the gun, take the money,” McCoy said. He also testified he received a text from Bryant at 1:44 a.m., about 15 minutes before the shootings in which Bryant asked McCoy, “You sure he ain’t got one?” referring to whether Green had a gun.

McCoy said he knew Green did not have a gun, as he previously heard Green say his gun had been stolen. McCoy testified he thought everything would go smoothly, and he never texted anyone to shoot a gun.

McCoy claimed when the door opened, he didn’t see Bryant, but saw Crump, whom he said he had met only in passing. McCoy said he was shot in the head. He showed the jury a scar on his head. He identified Crump in the courtroom as the person who shot him.

McCoy testified that he could not see whether the shooter had tattoos or facial hair. He said he only saw the shooter “from the eyes up,” and for “one second,” before being shot.

Crump, who was convicted at trial of 16 charges, including the aggravated murder of Rowan and the attempted murder of the four adults, will be sentenced July 29.

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

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