Judge allows defense to hire expert witness in Youngstown murder case

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Investigators are expected to rely heavily on cell phone evidence in the aggravated murder trial of Lavontae Knight

Lavontae Knight, aggravated murder, Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Monday agreed to a defense request to hire a cell phone expert in an upcoming murder trial.

Judge John Durkin granted the request to attorney David Betras, who is representing Lavontae Knight, 25, of Leo Street, who is charged with aggravated murder in the Oct. 25, 2018, shooting death of Josh Donatelli in a home on Imperial Street.

Also charged with Donatelli’s death is George Gutierres, 30, of Pasadena Avenue. He faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The decision means a trial expected to take place Monday will be continued.

Betras also asked Judge Durkin last week to bar prosecutors from introducing a cell phone found on his client at trial. The judge has yet to rule on that motion.

Betras made the motion for the expert last week, saying that he needs someone who can help him decipher the cell phone data prosecutors are expected to introduce at trial.

Knight is also charged with the Dec. 30, 2018, shooting death of Trevice Harris, 37, and the wounding of another woman who was with him. The pair were found by police in a car at a Market Street gas station. He faces a May 4 trial in that case.

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