YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — If opening statements are any indication, a video purporting to show the June 2018 murder of Brandon Wylie is the most important piece of evidence in the trial of the two men accused of his death.
Prosecutors and a defense attorney for the two men charged in Wylie’s death all addressed the video Tuesday during opening statements in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Charged with aggravated murder and murder in the death of the 30-year-old Wylie are Brian Donlow, 24 and Stephon Hopkins, 22.
Wylie was shot and killed just after midnight June 19, 2018, in a courtyard at the Plaza View apartment complex.
Police immediately were able to access security video that they said showed the shooting but neither of the defendants were indicted until May of 2019.
The two are also charged with another shooting death on the East Side in November of 2018.
Opening statements were held and testimony began after a jury was picked Monday before Judge Anthony D’Apolito.
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Yacovone told jurors that the video will show that Hopkins and Donlow both acted with premeditation and prior calculation and design when they shot and killed Wylie.
“There’s no surprises here,” Yacovone said of the video. “They’re acting cool, calm and collected. Nothing was frantic. Nothing was spur of the moment.”
Wylie was shot several times. Investigators found casings from two different handguns, a 9mm and a .45-caliber, which Yacovone said shows that the two wanted to make sure Wylie did not survive.
Hopkins’ attorney, Mark Carfolo, said the video evidence can’t be trusted. He said the quality is not good enough to clearly identify his client or Donlow.
“They want you to look at a grainy video. They want you to look at blurred image and say that’s Stephon Hopkins. They’re not going to be able to do that,” Carfolo said.
Cafrolo also said his client was nowhere near the crime scene and he will introduce evidence to show Hopkins’ alibi.
John Laczko, the attorney for Donlow, also said the video is unreliable. He said prosecutors have no evidence to prove the two men in the video are the defendants.
“This case is about identification,” Laczko said.
A witness testified that Hopkins and another man she could not identify were hanging out in the projects just before Wylie was killed. The witness said she went to a nearby gas station to get some gas, and while she was gone, someone called her and told her not to come back because someone at Plaza View had just been killed.
Wylie’s father, Henry Wylie, testified that his son served in the U.S. Army for seven years and he was helping his son because the younger Wylie did not have a car. Henry Wylie said he took his son to regular VA appointments and that his son lived with him.
Henry Wylie, who also served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, testified he was told about the shooting and saw his son’s body at the crime scene.
“My son was lying on the ground where they shot him. Where they murdered him,” Henry Wylie testified.