YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A man charged with killing his girlfriend in a West Side apartment is now on his third attorney in the case.
Judge Anthony Donofrio Wednesday agreed with a request by Kyle Rice, 31, to appoint a new attorney for his case because of disagreements with co-counsel Rachel Cerni and Mark Lavelle.
Judge Donofrio appointed attorney Doug Taylor to the case following a brief hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Rice had filed a motion last month seeking new counsel because of disagreements he had with Lavelle.
A pretrial in the case is set for May 19 while the July 19 pretrial date has yet to be changed.
Rice is accused of the Feb. 2019 shooting death of his girlfriend, Danekua Bankston, in her Oregon Avenue apartment on Youngstown’s west side. Bankston died Feb. 8, 2019, a few days after she was shot.
Rice has been in custody on $1 million bond since he was arrested shortly after.
Attorney Ed Hartwig was the first attorney on the case but court records do not indicate if he was retained or court appointed. He filed a motion in December 2019 to withdraw as Rice’s counsel, which Judge Donofrio approved Dec. 31, 2019.
That was also the same day he appointed Lavelle and Cerni to represent Rice.
Prosecutors said Rice shot Bankston in front of their children and Bankston’s sister. They said there are witnesses to place Rice at the crime scene and cell phone data also places Rice at the crime scene.
Rice has also asked twice to have his bond reduced, including a motion last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both motions were denied.