YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) — A man accused of shooting another man to death and burning his body in an SUV pleaded no contest Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to murder and other charges.
Terrell Martin, 39, also entered no-contest pleas to charges of aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence.
Martin was found guilty by Judge Maureen Sweeney and sentenced to a recommended 18 years to life in prison for the February 20, 2017, shooting death of Zachary Howell, 40, whose body was found in a burned-out SUV behind a vacant house at Edgar and Knapp avenues on the east side.
Howell had been shot in the head twice before the SUV was set on fire. DNA needed to be used to identify him.
The plea heads off a trial that was to start Monday.
Three members of Howell’s family spoke during sentencing.
“They took away a good man,” said Zachary Howell Jr., a member of the U.S. Army. “Not just a good man but a great father. Every day I wish I could bring him back.”
A co-defendant, Lyric Moore, 23, will be tried at a later date.
The pair were arrested after police were able to link them to the crime because Moore dropped her cell phone at the crime scene. Assistant Prosecutor Michael Yacovobe said Youngstown police Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert used that phone to track Martin’s phone, which records showed was at the crime scene.
“The cell phone and cell sites were the smoking gun in this case,” Yacovone said.
When questioned by detectives, Martin tried to kill himself and wrote a note to his family on a wall in the interview room, Yacovone said.
Martin was allowed to act as his own attorney this week while defense lawyer Rhys Cartwright-Jones was appointed as stand by counsel.
Cartwright-Jones told the judge he went to the county jail Thursday to help Martin prepare for a deposition Friday with a member of the coroner’s office about Howell’s autopsy when he told Cartwright-Jones he wanted to resolve the case.