The Tyus brothers had a "mission to kill" on the streets of Akron — and the target didn’t matter, prosecutors say.
Orlando and Donyea Tyus and a female accomplice each were to claim one life.
“Who were their targets?” Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel asked Tuesday during opening statements in the brothers’ murder trial. “It didn’t matter what they looked like or what they were doing. It was body for body.”
“They were going to kill — for the sake of killing,” Baumoel said.
Defense attorneys, however, questioned the credibility of Cheyenne James, the Tyus brothers’ alleged accomplice, and argued two other men who knew James were responsible for the random shootings on July 7 of last year that left two people dead.
“Other than Cheyenne, there is no witness identification of our clients,” said Mike George, who is representing Donyea Tyus with attorney Jeff James.
Prosecutors say the brothers shot and killed Bonn Rassavong, 46, and Robert McCall, 58, in separate shootings that spanned Akron early on July 7, 2018. They say two other potential victims survived when a gun malfunctioned.
Donyea Tyus, 30, and Orlando Tyus, 28, both face numerous felonies, including two counts each of aggravated murder.
James, 21, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to felonious assault and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 5.
The Tyus brothers’ joint trial in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty’s courtroom began with jury selection Monday and a visit to the incident sites, openings and a few witnesses Tuesday.
Baumoel said James is a drug addict who, at the time of the shootings, was using heroin or fentanyl daily. He said she was at a drug house south of the city when the Tyus brothers asked her to go for a drive on July 7.
Their first stop was 649 Schiller Ave., where they pulled up behind a parked car. Bonn and Conn Rassavong, two brothers, left a family gathering and walked to their car about 3:30 a.m. Orlando Tyus approached Bonn and shot him in the face, head and neck. Conn ran and Donyea tried to shoot him, but his gun malfunctioned, Baumoel said.
The three drove south on state Route 8, getting off on South Arlington Street, parked the car and walked into a known drug area.
Donyea saw McCall in a gravel parking lot at 393 S. Arlington and went up to him, shaking his hand as if he knew him. He then pulled out a gun and fired, shooting McCall in the head, Baumoel said.
The brothers, Baumoel said, told James, “Now we have a club of killing people — and you can be the first lady.”
At Sixth Avenue and Minordy Place, they saw a 51-year-old woman and enticed her into an alley with the promise of drugs. Donyea gave his gun to James, who pointed it at the woman and pulled the trigger, but it didn’t fire. Donyea also tried to fire but the gun again malfunctioned, Baumoel said.
The woman and James wrestled, and the woman kicked James. The woman’s teeth fell out and she ran.
The big break in the case happened a month later when a friend of James told officers what she’d heard about the shootings. This led them to James, who accepted a plea agreement that included her testifying against the brothers. In exchange, she wasn’t charged for the two murders, Baumoel said.
Baumoel said other evidence includes cellphone records that show the Tyus brothers were in the area at the time of each incident.
Dave Lombardi, however, who is representing Orlando Tyus with attorney Joe Gorman, urged jurors to pay attention to details and weigh the credibility of the witnesses.
“It’s important for you to take time to listen,” he said.
George said the key to the case is James, a heroin addict whom he claims sold herself for a $200-per-day drug habit. He said James claims two men came to her house July 7 with an odd proposal — forming a new gang that required a murder to join.
George said James went with these men, was present for all three incidents and didn’t try to run or thwart them. He said James was the only person the woman in the third incident identified.
James, George said, wasn’t charged with murder and could end up getting probation. He said there are no fingerprints, DNA or guns that link the Tyus brothers to the shootings.
“Who are the two black males with her?” George asked. “Was it our clients or some of Cheyenne’s clients?”
There will be a break in the trial Wednesday, with it resuming Thursday. The trial is expected to last into next week.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.