YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Kyle Rice told a jury Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court he feared for his life when his girlfriend grabbed his gun and they wrestled for it before she was shot eight times.
A jury didn’t believe him and found Rice, 31, guilty Wednesday of aggravated murder and murder before Judge Anthony Donofrio.
“I was scared for my life,” he said before Judge Anthony Donofrio. “I was afraid for my well-being.”
Rice took the witness stand in his own defense in his aggravated murder trial, which started Monday after jury selection.
He is accused of shooting Danekua Bankston, 28, in the bedroom of her apartment Feb. 8, 2019 during an argument. Bankston died from her injuries four days later.
In opening statements, prosecutors said Bankston and Rice talked throughout the day but at one point, it got heated and Bankston tried to block his number on her phone.
Under cross examination, Rice testified that he came to the apartment after midnight after being at another apartment. He carried his “travel bag,” which he said he takes everywhere.
Rice said he had clothes, an Xbox gaming system and a gun in the bag. He’s had a concealed carry permit since 2011 and carried a gun “for protection.”
“Anywhere I go, the bag’s with me,” Rice said.
According to him, he was in an upstairs bedroom when Bankston woke him up by throwing his phone at him, then grabbed a chain he was wearing from behind him.
Bankston had his gun and the two wrestled for it, Rice testified. He and his lawyer, Atty. Doug Taylor, demonstrated the struggle for the jury.
The pair hit a door and fell, and Rice grabbed her arm to push the gun away, he said. At one point, Rice grabbed the gun and she grabbed it back, he said.
When Bankston was shot, she had the gun and Rice was trying to take it away, he testified.
Rice said he only heard one or two shots. Their 2-year-old son was in the room when she was shot.
Under cross examination from Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa, Rice said he was not sure how Bankston was shot in the back of her neck.
“So that’s just a magic bullet that went through the back of her neck?” Cantalamessa asked him.
“I don’t know how she got shot there,” Rice replied.
Bankston was shot eight times, including once in the back of the neck and once in the head. Rice said he did not see her head wound and did not shoot her in the head.
“I wasn’t trying to kill Danekua,” Rice told Cantalamessa. “I was trying not to die and protect my son.”
Rice said he ran and slept in a parking lot at the Eastwood Mall. He turned himself in to his attorney Feb. 9.
Rice, who has three children with Bankston and 10 kids total, said he is still mourning Bankston’s death and that he loved her.
He will be sentenced at a later date.