Plea deal reduces Youngstown murder charge to attempted murder, ballistics evidence at issue

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A man charged with a March shooting death at a South Avenue bar pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of attempted murder instead.

Erik Jenkins, 25, entered his plea before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Assistant Prosecutor Michael Rich and defense attorney Tony Meranto agreed on a sentence of six to nine years, plus three years for a firearm specification.

Jenkins had originally been charged with murder and felonious assault for the March 4 shootings death of Thomas Williams, 34, outside the Coconut Grove nightclub at South and East Lucius avenues.

Erik Jenkins, Youngstown, wanted for shooting death

Police said Jenkins opened fire on the bar, and the bar security guard, Montell Scott, returned fire. Scott was wounded by Jenkins, and a bullet fired by either Scott or Jenkins killed Williams.

Police collected a dozen 9mm casings they say were fired by Jenkins and .40-caliber casings fired by Scott.

When Jenkins learned he was a suspect, he turned himself in. At the time, police said even if a bullet fired by Jenkins didn’t kill Williams, he initiated the gunfire that led to his death.

Jenkins pleaded guilty to shooting Scott. Rich said he could not comment on why the charge was amended, but the murder investigation is continuing.

Meranto, however, said that ballistic tests failed to match any of the casings that were collected from Scott or Jenkins to the bullet that killed Williams. Because of that, he said he could argue that someone else entirely killed Williams.

In court, Meranto said the plea and sentence was not “a gift.”

“We were bound by the law and our ethical obligations,” Meranto said.

Jenkins declined to speak before he was sentenced.

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