Sentencings for murder defendants pushed back in Mahoning County amid COVID-19 outbreak

Local News

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, efforts are being made to keep contact with others at a minimum

Brian Donlow and Stephon Hopkins, charged in Youngstown murder

L: Brian Donlow, R: Stephon Hopkins (WKBN)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) —Sentencing hearings for four murder defendants in two separate cases had been pushed back at least 30 days as court officials grapple with how to conduct hearings in the age of social distancing.

Michael Sherman and Mark Winlock, both 20, were set to be sentenced this week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for their roles in the March 3, 2018, shooting of Brandon Wareham, 18, in a Rhoda Avenue driveway.

Sherman was convicted of complicity charges in January, and Winlock pleaded guilty to a murder charge in February.

A third defendant has already been sentenced. Prosecutors said Wareham was lured to the home to be robbed of marijuana but was killed instead. Winlock was the trigger man.

Also set to be sentenced after being convicted in January of the June 30, 2018, shooting death of Brandon Wylie in the Plaza View apartment complex are Brian Donlow, 25 and Stephon Hopkins, 22.

All four defendants are to be sentenced by Judge Anthony D’Apolito.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the courts have been closing at noon each day and efforts are being made to keep contact with other people to a bare minimum.

The courthouse is still open until 4 p.m. daily.

At arraignments Tuesday, Judge D’Apolito also said that anyone on bail and charged with a fourth- or fifth-degree felony or some third-degree felonies can waive their arraignments, so they do not have to make a trip to the courthouse.

Assistant Prosecutor Mike Yacovone said he has been in contact with attorneys for those defendants in order to arrange bonds over the phone.

Typically at arraignments, the attorneys will recommend a bond to the judge if they can agree and a judge almost always sets that bond.

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