YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A person of interest in an October homicide who eluded questioning from police had an obstruction of justice charge Friday bound over to a Mahoning County grand jury.
Magistrate Anthony Sertick found there was enough probable cause to bind the charge over against Charles Lightning, 27, on the fifth-degree felony charge, following a preliminary hearing in municipal court.
Detectives had been looking to question Lightning shortly after the Oct. 31 shooting death of Marquis Buxton, 24, who was found shot to death in an SUV in a parking lot at Market Street and West Judson Avenue.
Detectives were looking to question Lightning after he showed up at St. Elizabeth Health Center almost the exact same time officers responded to the parking lot where Buxton was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
Lightning told detectives he was shot in the 3200 block of Market Street but police had no evidence of a shooting there, including a lack of any activation from a gunshot sensor in that block.
They tried to several times to question Lightning again, but he rebuffed their efforts, so a warrant was issued for the obstruction charge on March 2. Lightning wasn’t found until April 8 in Warren. He has been free on $25,000 bond he posted after his arraignment last week.
Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert, the lead investigator on the case, testified in the hearing that he believes Lightning lied to him at the hospital where he was interviewed by detectives. After the Marshals took him into custody, Lightning then changed his story to say he was present at the shooting but he would not say who shot Buxton.
“That’s where he got uncooperative again,” Lambert said.
Lambert said gunshot sensors near the parking lot picked up at least five rounds fired. A blood sample at the crime scene turned out to belong to Lightning, which Lambert said led him to believe Lightning was there and he was not truthful with police.
Lambert also admitted that Lightning is a suspect in Buxton’s death.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Nick Cerni, Lambert said he was not aware that Lightning was given painkillers at the hospital, which may have affected his ability to respond, and he also said that even though Lightning eventually told police that he was at the crime scene, he still withheld what happened.
Lambert said under redirect examination by Assistant City Prosecutor Gene Fehr that Lightning obstructed justice because he lied to police twice, and that taints the entire investigation. If the murder case is ever prosecuted, defense attorneys can use the fact Lightning was not truthful to convince jurors he is not a good witness.
“He’s left a trail of lying and deception that we will have to overcome at trial,” Lambert said. “He has permanently damaged the investigation and the prosecution of the case.”
In his closing argument, Cerni said Lightning does not have a duty to be a witness for the police.