The Court of Appeal confirms the first of 2 convictions for the murder of a townsman | News, Sports, Jobs

YOUNGSTOWN – A murder case that featured unusual twists involving two defendants – convicted of two Youngstown murders in June and November 2018 – produced an appeals court decision affirming the conviction and sentence of Stephon Hopkins.

The Youngstown 7th District Court of Appeals determined the identification of Hopkins and co-defendant Brian Donlow Jr. as murderers, based on surveillance video of the Plaza View apartment complex on the east side , by a Youngstown police detective did not rape Hopkins. ‘ rights.

Hopkins, now 25, and Donlow, now 27, were both sentenced in April 2020 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to 21 years to life in the June shooting death. 2018 by Brandon Wylie, 30. Both were convicted of murder and being felons in possession of firearms at the same trial.

It was the same case in which former Youngstown detective Doug Bobovnyik testified in an evidence suppression hearing that he showed a series of photos of four men – whose names were Brian Donlow or something. something similar – to a witness for her to determine if the Brian Donlow Jr., a suspect in the case, was the same one she knew was in the Plaza View apartments just before the murder.

Bobovnyik said the witness said she knew the East Side defendant, but he was not the only Brian Donlow she knew.

“There were four Brian Donlows or variations of the name,” Bobvnyik said. “To the best of my recollection, they were all half-brothers.”

In addition to the accused, there were Brian Donlow III, Brian Trevon Fredrick Donlow and Byron Brian Bryson Donlow, Bobovnyik said.

The witness identified Brian Donlow Jr. as the man in the apartment complex.


A key aspect of the trial was testimony from Detective Michael Lambert of the Youngstown Police Department identifying Hopkins and Donlow as the two individuals seen in the surveillance video.

A video clip shows Hopkins and Donlow walking with Wiley through the apartment complex, and another clip shows Hopkins shooting in the direction of where Wiley’s body was later found, and Donlow then closing in on the victim’s location, then walking away as he and the shooter fled.

It’s the same video that shows the shooter displaying a casual attitude as he fires his gun – behavior that Judge Anthony D’Apolito later called “cold, calculated and heartless” and likened it to to: “I’m going to throw away this gum wrapper, and I’ll shoot you at the same time.

Hopkins’ appeal argued that it was inappropriate for D’Apolito to allow Lambert to testify that he could identify Hopkins from the video. Lambert said he could do so because of Lambert’s previous relationship with Hopkins and Donlow in his detective work investigating criminal cases in Youngstown.

Lambert testified that he had previously talked to and watched Hopkins and Donlow and said “yes” when asked if he was “familiar with the way these men behave, the way they walk, things of that nature,” says the leader.

As the video was played for the jury, Lambert identified Hopkins as the person shooting and recognized him by his hairstyle, the way he walked and the clothes he was wearing. Hopkins’ shorts bore a logo matching the shorts Hopkins wore in a photo on Hopkins’ Facebook page, Lambert said.

There were two other men outside the apartment buildings that night, identified as Lorice Moore and Chasmar Ford, who Lambert said he also knew from previous inquiries, but Lambert said he was sure they weren’t the men he identified as Hopkins and Donlow because their body types were different.

Moore is lean, muscular and older, while Ford is darker, shorter and stockier than the other three men and had a lot of facial hair and sideburns at the time, he said, according to decision.

“We have concluded that it is not unreasonable to conclude that the detective’s identification was rationally based on the witness’s perception and helpful to a clear understanding of the witness’s testimony or the determination of a fact,” said decision.

Although the defense called the surveillance video “fuzzy,” the appeals court noted that some of it showing the person identified as Hopkins was “pretty clear.”


The ruling said the appeals court disagreed with Hopkins’ claim that he was denied his right to a fair trial by Bobovnyik’s testimony regarding advice Bobovnyik received in an anonymous voicemail identifying Hopkins and Donlow as suspects in the murder.

During the trial, Bobovnyik said he used tips he received to ask a witness who was in the apartment complex if Hopkins was one of the men at a gathering just before the murder, says the ruling judge. Bobovnyik used the tips to print out a photo of Hopkins which he showed to one of the people at the rally to “confirm that this was the Stephon Hopkins she was with at the rally the night of the shooting”, says the leader.

A witness identified Donlow and Hopkins as part of a gathering of people shortly before the shooting, and another witness identified Hopkins as among those present at the gathering, the government says.

“Video shows two of the men leaving the gathering and approaching the victim as he arrives,” the ruling continues.

“Text messages to Moore indicated that the victim’s arrival was expected but delayed,” the decision states.

The appeals court previously upheld Donlow’s conviction in the case.

Hopkins and Moore, now 26, were also convicted last month, Nov. 18, 2018, of the East Side car murder of Christopher Jackson Jr.

Hopkins was sentenced to 35 years to life and Moore to 32 years. They were both convicted at the same trial in November, also before Judge D’Apolito.

Donlow was found guilty at a separate trial in April in Jackson’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Donlow represented himself in this lawsuit.

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