Judge to decide shortly on suppression issue in Youngstown murder case

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Defense attorneys want a phone found on the defendant to be barred from testimony

Lavontae Knight wanted in Youngstown homicide

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Judge John Durkin Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court said he hopes to rule within a week on a motion to suppress the introduction of a cell phone in the trial of a man accused of a West Side murder.

The judge said he will rely on affidavits, warrants and arguments following a suppression motion in the case of Lavontae Knight, 23, who is charged with aggravated murder for the Oct. 25, 2018, shooting death of Joshua Donatelli, 25, in an Imperial Street home.

Knight is also charged with aggravated murder in a separate case, the Dec. 30, 2018, shooting death of Trevice Harris, 37, and attempted murder for the wounding of a woman with Harris. They were both found in a vehicle at a 3200 Market St. gas station.

At issue is one of three phones seized by police when Knight was arrested for the Harris murder that was used by a co-defendant in the Donatelli case, George Gutierres, 30, of Pasadena Avenue. Gutierres is charged with manslaughter for Donatelli’s death.

When investigators went through the phone, they found a contact listed as “Slim,” which is what Gutierres called Knight. Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said she wants to introduce the phone at trial because it can show jurors that Gutierres and Knight knew each other.

David Betras, one of Knight’s attorneys, said he wants Judge Durkin to bar the phone from the trial because investigators went through the entire phone, instead of doing a limited search.

By introducing the phone, jurors could infer that the two talked to each other around the time that Donatelli was killed, Betras said, and Betras said someone else killed Donatelli, not his client.

“They can’t prove he [Knight] was using that phone in October,” Betras said.

But Cantalamessa repeated that prosecutors are not making that claim. She said the phone shows there is a connection between Gutierres and Knight.

Trial in the case is set for Feb. 10.

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