Witness in murder trial who was free on bond arrested with gun that had extended magazine

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Reports said one of two men arrested early Saturday after police found a semiautomatic handgun with an extended magazine during a traffic stop was free on bail after pleading guilty to his role in a 2018 west side homicide.

George Gutierres, 31, who reports said is homeless and DeMarco Lee, 25, of Akron, were both booked into the Mahoning County jail on a charge of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. They are expected to be arraigned later today in municipal court.

Gutierres pleaded guilty Dec. 27, 2019, to an amended charge of attempted possession of cocaine after originally being charged with involuntary manslaughter for the October 2018 shooting death of Joshua Donatelli, 25, of Imperial Street.

Gutierres had been in the jail until he was granted $50,000 bail Oct. 29, when he was expected to be sentenced, but his sentencing was continued because the trial for the man accused of killing Donatelli, Lavontae Knight, 26, had yet to begin.

A plea agreement in the case calls for a four-year sentence with Gutierres allowed to apply for judicial release after he serves six months. An entry in the court docket said Gutierres will be sentenced when Knight’s trial is completed. He is expected to testify during the trial.

Gutierres and Lee are among five people arrested over the weekend by city police on improper handling charges as well as an additional person who was arrested by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. However, those reports were not available Monday morning.

Guiterres was driving a car in which Lee was a passenger that was pulled over about 12:25 a.m. at West Front Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard by members of the Neighborhood Response Unit for an improper turn.

As officers approached the car, reports said one of them saw a gun lying on the floor in the back seat.

A records check also revealed Lee has a warrant from Cuyahoga County for forgery, reports said.

Police took both men out of the car and recovered the gun they had observed, which was a 9mm semiautomatic handgun with a magazine loaded with 30 rounds, reports said. Police also found a magazine with 17 rounds of ammunition, reports said.

Reports said both men refused to answer questions about the gun.

Knight’s trial was set to begin Aug. 8 but has been continued. A pretrial is set for Tuesday.

One of the prosecutors on Knight’s case, former Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa, was dismissed from the case in July by Judge John Durkin after defense attorneys claimed she did not disclose evidence in a timely fashion and that she did it deliberately.

Cantalamessa later resigned.

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