YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — An Akron woman was sentenced Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to three years in prison for her role in a Feb. 29 double homicide on Youngstown’s south side.
Courtney Hall, 31, received the sentence from Judge John Durkin after pleading guilty to three counts of tampering with evidence.
Police said Hall drove her boyfriend, John Brunner III, to a home on West Judson Avenue where Brunner shot and killed the mother of his daughter, Cierra Morris and her father Leroy Morris, 58.
Hall was accused of getting rid of the clothes Brunner wore and moving the car and gun used in the crime. She did cooperate with police.
Brunner pleaded guilty in August to both slayings and is serving a sentence of 41 years to life in prison.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin recommended a sentence of six years in prison. She said investigators do not believe Hall had any knowledge that Brunner was planning on doing any harm, but that she hid key evidence until confronted by police.
McLaughlin said the day of the shooting, Hall dropped Brunner off at the Morris’ home and parked at a nearby store and waited for Brunner to return. McLaughlin said Hall saw Brunner get out of the car and he had a gun on him.
When Brunner found out he was wanted for the shooting he turned himself into police a few hours later. He managed to call Hall and told her to get rid of the car and gun, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin did acknowledge that Hall did cooperate with police and she also agreed to testify against Brunner if the case ever came to trial but she believed Hall needed to serve a prison sentence.
“She is certainly responsible for a portion of what went on after the fact,” McLaughlin said.
Hall’s lawyer, Howard Meeker, asked for probation. He said his client has no prior criminal record, was a college basketball player and high school basketball coach who had a steady job. Meeker said Hall was close to the daughter Cierra Morris and Brunner shared and that she parked at the store whenever Brunner visited so as to not cause any friction during the visit.
Meeker said both Brunner and Hall had concealed carry permits for guns and they always had guns wherever they went. Brunner said his client immediately cooperated with police and gave a statement and that she has already spent 10 months in jail awaiting the outcome of her case.
“She’s never lied or been dishonest about anything in this case,” Meeker said.
A niece of Hall’s, Leah Hall, said her aunt is a kind person who was scared and manipulated by Brunner, in part because she lost her mother at a young age and was looking for someone to be with.
“She was wrong but she was duped by him [Brunner],” Leah Hall said of her aunt.
Linda Long read a statement on behalf of the Morris family asking for a prison sentence, saying how much the slaying has affected the daughter of Cierra Morris, who watched Brunner kill her mother and grandfather in front of her.
When she spoke, Hall apologized and asked for forgiveness. She said she was very close to Brunner’s daughter and would never do anything that would take her mother away, especially because her mother died at a young age.
She said she had no idea what Brunner would do and added “I was terrified, nervous and emotional,” when she acted after the murders.
“This isn’t who I am or my character,” Hall said.
Judge Durkin said he doesn’t believe Hall had any idea what Brunner would do but he found it disturbing that she hid evidence, which is why he decided on a prison sentence.