YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — As the courtroom began to fill with people, the three 17-year-old boys began looking around to see who was there from their families. All three of them charged with aggravated murder in the death of 14-year-old Landon Lockhart.
“Hi, Grandpa,” one of those boys said as an elderly man walked past.
The Sunday morning court hearing was a probable cause hearing to determine whether or not the case should be bound over to a grand jury to decide if the boys should be indicted and tried as adults.
In order for Judge Theresa Dellick to determine this, the evidence in the case needed to be presented.
First News is not releasing the names of the suspects at this time, since they are underage and have not been charged as adults at this time. However, we will refer to them as “Defendant 1, Defendant 2 and Defendant 3.”
The night of Landon’s death
Prosecutor Anissa Modarelli called to the stand a witness who said she was with Landon the night of Nov. 21, 2021, the night he was killed.
The witness stated that she was over at a relative’s house on Clearmount Drive when Landon came over with Defendant 1. She said Landon and Defendant 1 stayed for about 30 minutes and then they left in a small black car.
After they left, the witness said she felt uneasy because she knew Landon and Defendant 1 were not close friends and that Landon didn’t like him. So, she sent Landon a text at 12:04 a.m. and a short exchange took place.
Witness: “Be careful lil dummy”
Landon: “Yo wya (where you at)”
Landon: “I’m getting took to the Dale (Avondale Ave.)”
Witness: “Walking down Jay Street”
That was the last time she heard from Landon.
Sometime between when Landon left Clearmont Drive and when these messages were sent, he arrived at a home on Avondale Avenue.
Defendant 3 was called to the stand to testify. It was noted that he is being offered a plea deal. In exchange for his cooperation and testimony against the other defendants, he is not subjected to being bound over to a grand jury.
Defendant 3 stated that he was at the Avondale home with Defendant 2 when Landon and Defendant 1 showed up. He said they never came inside the house, but instead, all four of them left together.
Defendant 3 said he didn’t know Landon well, and only knew him through a mutual friend.
After they left the home, he says they drove around for about 25 minutes then headed to the East Side.
Once there, he says they pulled into a driveway and Landon, Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 got out of the car and walked around the corner. Defendant 3 says he did not get out of the car.
A few minutes later, he heard gunshots. He says then Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 came back to the car without Landon, both carrying a gun in their hands.
Defendant 3 was adamant that Defendant 1 shot Landon and that he himself stayed in the car and did not shoot Landon. But defense attorneys John Shultz and Tony Meranto challenged this.
“Did you see [Defendant 1] kill him?” Shultz asked.
“No, sir. I just heard that he did. The streets talk,” Defendant 3 said.
“Well, did you ever hear that people said you’re the one who stood over Landon while he begged for his life?” Meranto asked.
“No, sir,” Defendant 3 answered.
“I’m sure you haven’t,” Meranto said.
Testimony was also given that Defendant 3 initially told police he was not at the scene that night at all, but later changed his story to say he was there but stayed in the car.
As Defendant 3 gave his testimony, Defendant 2 continuously shook his head and leg, looking as if he were becoming agitated.
Defendant 3 was asked what happened when the two other defendants returned to the car. He said no one said anything and they just went home, played the game, and relaxed.
After testifying, Defendant 3 looked over where family members were sitting and said “Mom, I love you.” The woman just wiped tears, as she had been doing the whole hearing.
After the night of Nov. 21, Landon’s family had no idea what happened to him. Landon was reported missing and his mother, siblings, and loved ones pleaded and fought for answers.
On Dec. 8, police issued a BOLO alert for Landon. But no one came forward.
During Sunday’s hearing, Lt. Robert Gentile testified that in early January 2022, a tip came in that Landon’s body was on Truesdale Avenue, across the street from a home Defendant 2 used to live in.
The informant was able to take officers to the location where Landon’s body was found in a vacant lot, in a small patch of woods.
From this point, detectives would interview a number of people.
Lt. Gentile testified that some of the people interviewed had no direct knowledge of what may have taken place, other than hearsay. However, he said there were also some who knew details and had direct conversations with the suspects.
One witness testified that Defendant 2 told him that he “messed up” during a conversation about what happened to Landon.
Lt. Gentile said that during an interview, that same witness said Defendant 2 told him where Landon’s body was and what happened to the gun.
Another witness testified that she walked in on a conversation where all three defendants were talking and it was being explained that Defendant 2 and Defendant 3 were the ones who shot Landon.
Mahoning County Coroner Dr. David Kennedy testified that when Landon’s body was found, it was partially frozen due to the cold winter temperature.
At the scene, detectives were able to recover some evidence.
They found an Apple Watch and a black ski mask, which they determined belonged to Landon. They also found three spent shell casings. One from a 380 handgun and two from a 9 mil. handgun.
Lt. Gentile testified that after they arrested Defendant 1 on May 11, a 9 mil. handgun was found at his home. That gun was tested and it did not match the shell casings at the scene, therefor it was determined it was not the weapon used.
He also testified that there was no DNA evidence found at the scene matching Defendant 1 or Defendant 2.
After hours of testimony, Judge Theresa Dellick determined she will take the facts presented under advisement before making her ruling.