YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The lead investigator in the Rowan Sweeney murder case testified Thursday about the steps police took to build their case against one of the two men accused of killing the Struthers toddler.
Struthers police Capt. Dan Mamula testified in a hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court before Judge Anthony D’Apolito that a witness that was wounded in the same Sept. 21, 2020, shooting that killed 4-year-old Sweeney and wounded four other people picked Kimonie Bryant out of a photo lineup. Sweeney’s mother, who was also wounded, picked Bryant out of a photo lineup the next day, according to testimony.
Mamula also testified that in the weeks after the shooting, he got more evidence that Bryant, 26, and co-defendant Brandon Crump, 18, were involved by interviewing Bryant’s mother, girlfriend and another witness.
Bryant was arrested the same day as the shooting at the Perry Street home of Sweeney’s mother, Alexis Schneider. He was indicted Oct. 1, 2020, by a grand jury.
Prosecutors said Sweeney was killed during a robbery in which the suspects were looking for money that Schneider’s boyfriend, Yarnell Green, had received from a stimulus check.
A superseding indictment in March of 2021 also charged Crump and a third person, Andre McCoy, 21, with Sweeney’s death. However, an additional count of conspiracy was added for Bryant. His attorneys, Lynn Maro and John Juhasz, asked Judge D’Apolito to dismiss that count against their client, saying in a previous motion that the count was added after the original grand jury indictment in October 2020 and was past the speedy trial deadline in the case.
If convicted, Bryant could face the death penalty. Crump also was indicted on death penalty specifications, but he is ineligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile when Sweeney was killed.
McCoy, who was shot in the head in the same shooting and was near death at one point, has eluded authorities ever since his treatment was ended.
Prosecutors contend that investigators were able to secure more evidence after the original indictment, which is why they oppose the motion to dismiss the conspiracy count. The hearing is for Judge D’Apolito to decide from investigators and other witnesses if prosecutors’ claims have merit.
The hearing is expected to be continued within the next two weeks because it was called so late in the day there was not enough time for the witnesses to testify.
Mamula was called out to the Perry Street home where Sweeney was killed and he arrived about 2:30 a.m., he testified. Sweeney’s body was still there and the other victims were being treated for their wounds at St. Elizabeth Health Center.
“The house was in disarray,” Mamula testified. “There were chairs thrown all over, glass broken. It was a chaotic scene.”
One of the shooting victims, McCoy’s girlfriend, told Mamula at the hospital that she and the others were laughing and “getting high” when someone wearing a red jacket burst in, said he was there to rob them and started shooting.
Mamula took that victim’s phone and got a search warrant for several phones found at the scene, including McCoy’s phone, which had texts to someone named “KB” and two calls within a half hour of the shooting. Mamula was able to match KB’s number to a number for Bryant.
Mamula then got a photo of Bryant and got another detective to arrange a photo lineup. That person picked Bryant out of the lineup, Mamula testified.
Schneider was able to identify Bryant the next day, Mamula testified, saying: “He’s the one that killed my baby.”
Green, who was also wounded, did not identify Bryant the first time, but he did identify him at another point that day, Mamula testified.
Mamula served a search warrant at Bryant’s home on Cassius Avenue in Youngstown on Oct. 2, 2020, the day after the first grand jury indictment was issued. It was then that Bryant’s mom identified Crump as also being involved, but she only knew him by his street name, Mamula testified.
Bryant had also mentioned Crump when he was questioned earlier by police but claimed to only know Crump by his street name, Mamula testified.
Another person whose name Bryant’s mother gave Mamula was ruled out as a suspect because he did not fit the description of any of the shooters, Mamula testified.
Bryant’s girlfriend, who was interviewed after the first indictment issued against Bryant, was able to identify Crump, as was a Youngstown police officer who was familiar with him and his street name, Mamula testified. Bryant’s girlfriend said Bryant told her he was at the home when Sweeney was killed and that Bryant drove Crump to and from the crime.
On Oct. 7, 2020, Mamula interviewed another witness who was arrested by Youngstown police on a gun charge. That witness told him Bryant and Crump were “associates,” Mamula testified. Mamula also saw a video on Crump’s phone that showed him fondling money that was similar to the money taken in the robbery, Mamula testified.
Under cross examination from Juhasz, Mamula said Green did not testify before the grand jury before the Oct. 1, 2020, indictment was issued. He also said under cross examination that Green said a photo similar to the video of Crump was someone else and that the original witness he spoke to at the hospital who was wounded did delete several items from her phone after the first indictment in the case was issued.