YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Prosecutors have decided who will go on trial first in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for the September 2020 death of a 4-year-old Struthers boy.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin told Judge Anthony D’Apoloto that the state will try Brandon Crump, 18, for the shooting death of Rowan Sweeney at his mother’s Perry Street home in Struthers.
The announcement came at a pretrial hearing for co-defendant Kimonie Bryant, 26.
Prosecutors were awaiting the results of DNA tests from an out-of-state lab before determining who will be tried first.
The DNA results were returned late last month. Prosecutors will not say what items were submitted to be tested.
Crump’s case has been returned to juvenile court. Crump was 17 at the time of Sweeney’s death, and he was originally charged in juvenile court with aggravated robbery. That charge was bound over to common pleas court after a probable cause hearing at the juvenile level.
Crump is presently charged in juvenile court with several crimes, including aggravated murder. If those charges are bound over to adult court by a juvenile court judge, then Crump’s case will be the first to proceed to trial at the Common Pleas level.
A grand jury indicted Crump on adult charges of aggravated murder, attempted murder and other charges that were never heard at the juvenile level.
Crump’s lawyers filed a motion asking for those charges to be either dismissed or returned to the juvenile level because those charges were never bound over to common pleas court by a juvenile court judge.
Prosecutors did not challenge the motion and agreed to refile those charges at the juvenile level. Those charges were refiled at the juvenile level Wednesday, McLaughlin said.
Judge D’Apolito said he hopes Crump’s trial can begin in May or June.
Crump and Bryant were indicted on capital specifications for the boy’s death, which means the death penalty can be applied if they are found guilty. However, because Crump was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed, under state law, he cannot be put to death. Investigators say Sweeney was killed during a robbery at the home of his mother by a group looking to rob her boyfriend of his stimulus check.
Bryant was originally indicted in October 2020 for Sweeney’s death that was part of a superseding indictment in March 2021 that included Crump as well as Andre McCoy, 21.
McCoy was wounded in the same shooting that killed Sweeney and injured several others. Prosecutors have not been able to find him, and they have not said how McCoy could have been shot in the head yet still be part of the plot that resulted in Sweeney’s death. McCoy could also face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Three others were also charged in the superseding indictment with other roles in the case.
The case has been delayed because of arguments over where and how the DNA collected by investigators would be tested.