Parole board releasing two convicted killers in local cases

Local News

The parole board was trying to decide if defendants in separate murders in 1982 and 1985 should be released from prison

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The state Parole Board Wednesday held video hearings with families in two local murder cases appealing earlier decisions to free inmates convicted for the deaths of their loved ones.

The parole board upheld an earlier decision to release James Hall, 67. He has been serving a sentence of 25 years to 100 years on charges of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary for the July 25, 1982, shooting death of Douglas Skica, 28, at a home in the Sherwood Forest area in Boardman.

The parole board also heard an appeal by the family of Mohammed Awadalla, 28, who was shot and killed during a robbery at a 740 Broadway Ave. store on the North Side. Willie Riley, 55, is serving a sentence of 18 years to life on a murder charge with a firearm specification for Awadalla’s death. That appeal was also upheld.

Usually, the hearings are held in Columbus, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, family members participated via video from the meeting room of the Mahoning County Commissioners in the basement of the courthouse.

Hall was one of four men authorities charged for the murder of Skica. Reports at the time said Skica’s father, Douglas Sr., who once owned a Sandwich Factory restaurant and another business, was attacked about 1:30 a.m. in his drive after he was followed home from work.

Two of the attackers forced their way inside the home and at some point Skica, a former Canfield High linebacker who played in college with former Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jack Lambert at Kent State, confronted one of the attackers. The other attacker then fired a shot and killed Skica.

Inside the home at the time was another brother as well as Skica’s mother.

Present for the hearing was his brother, Daniel Skica; his wife Debbie; and their daughter, Erica. Afterward, they said they were disappointed, but the fact Hall will be under strict supervision for the next five years makes it easier to take. Daniel Skica did not live in the family home at the time of his brother’s death.

“It’s fair,” Daniel Skica said. “I wish they could keep him in prison.”

Daniel Skica said his brother loved sports and was a giving person.

“He was the type of person who would just rip his heard out and give it to you if you needed it,” Daniel Skica said. “The love he shared was unmatched.”

Debbie Skica said her brother in law was especially close to his parents.

“Every night, before he went to bed, he would give his mom and dad a kiss,” she said.

The attack and death of his brother took a big toll on their family. The elder Skica lost both his businesses, and the family lost their home. Skica’s mother lived with Daniel Skica for several years, and they were afraid to stay at their home. Douglas Sr. was diagnosed later in life with dementia and the pistol-whipping he took the night of the attack was a contributing factor, Daniel Skica said.

“It traumatized them and everything for the family went downhill from there,” Daniel Skica said of his brother’s murder.

Erica Skica said even as a grandchild who was not alive when her uncle was murdered, she could still feel the pain and grief from her grandmother,

“You could feel every inch — you could picture it and put yourself there,” Erica Skica said.

A relative of Awadalla’s was present for Riley’s hearing but declined to speak to a reporter.

Awadalla’s wife found Awadalla shot just after 11 p.m. Nov. 5, 1985. They lived in an apartment above the D&D Market which Awadalla ran.

Although Riley and three other suspects had left by the time police arrived, two men were looting the store and screaming at Awadalla’s wife when the first officers arrived on the scene. One of those officers was current police Chief Robin Lees.

Those two men were arrested.

Awadalla’s wife heard the shots from upstairs, discovered her husband’s body, and called police.

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