YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A bench trial is underway in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for a Warren woman accused of allowing two teens to use her car in a shooting that wounded a 13-year-old girl.
Jana Cox, 25, waived her right to a jury trial Monday and opted to have Judge John Durkin on two counts of complicity to commit felonious assault, a second-degree felony.
Cox was indicted in April for her role in the March 31 shooting in the 800 block of East Avondale Avenue. She did not waive her right to a speedy trial, which is why the case is being heard so quickly.
Assistant Prosecutor Joe Maxin said in his opening statement that when police asked her while a juvenile was driving her car at 2 a.m., she responded: “I was giving him a driving lesson.”
Charged as juveniles for their role in the shooting are 16-year-old Kasean Wilkerson and 16-year-old Xavier Hile, both of Niles.
Police say Wilkerson is the person who fired the shots and Hile was driving.
Maxin said Wilkerson will testify and say Cox gave him money for a gun.
Defense Attorney Mark Lavelle said Cox gave Wilkerson money for the gun weeks before the shooting and she had no idea anything would happen that night.
Wilkerson saw a car he thought was involved in shooting up his house which is why he fired the shots, Lavelle said.
Lavelle called Hile and Wilkerson “thugs” and said their testimony will be the key to the case.
“They can’t show one thing to say she had any knowledge this would occur,” Lavelle said.
The three were caught after police spotted Cox’s SUV about to get on Interstate 680 north. Police pulled the car over on the exit ramp and found the gun inside.
Maxin said Cox told detectives she had earbuds in at the time of the shooting and repeated her story that she was giving a driving lesson. On recorder calls from the jail, Maxin said she is heard lamenting, not telling Hile to run from the police.
A neighbor who testified said she heard the shots, called 911 and went to the home that was shot up.
She went inside and saw the victim was wounded and “there was blood everywhere. She kept yelling, ‘why?’” the witness said.
The witness said she was alarmed because the SUV was circling the street several times. She also provided police video that was played in court. The black and white video from a security camera shows a quiet street before an SUV creeps by slowly and 20 gunshots are fired. The shots are very loud in the stillness of the early morning.
A state Bureau of Criminal of Identification analyst also testified about gunshot residue that was found on both Cox and Wilkerson and city police officer Mike Quinn testified about pulling the SUV over.
Quinn said he was on his way to the shooting when he saw the SUV, which matched the description of the vehicle, turn north onto South Avenue so he decided to follow it and pull it over. He found three shell casings in the space under the front windshield he testified before he found the gun.
When asked if they had a gun, Cox and Wilkerson said there was no gun in the car while Hile said he wasn’t sure, Quinn testified.