YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Almost a year to the day after a 3-month-old boy and his parents were shot to death in a car on Youngstown’s south side, prosecutors and police announced two men have been charged in their deaths.
In a press conference Monday at the Mahoning County Administration Building, Prosecutor Paul Gains announced Shaiquon Sharpe, of Columbus, and Taquashon Ray, of Youngstown, both 23, were indicted on 11 counts.
That includes aggravated murder for the Nov. 7, 2018 shooting deaths of 21-year-old Edward Morris, his girlfriend, 19-year-old Valarcia Blair, and their baby, Tariq Morris.
The three were killed as they sat in a parked car at Gibson Street and Pasadena Avenue that evening.
Police said they were shot with two weapons, one of which was an assault rifle. Morris managed to fire one round from a .45-caliber handgun he was carrying before he was killed.
Sharpe is in the Mahoning County Jail on a parole violation on a weapons charge. Ray is serving a two-year sentence at the Lake Erie Correctional Facility after being convicted in common pleas court of possession of cocaine and burglary.
They are expected to be arraigned sometime in the next two weeks, Gains said.
Flanked by Police Chief Robin Lees, Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and the investigators on the case, detective sergeants Ron Barber and Michael Cox, and Chief of Detectives Capt. Brad Blackburn, Gains said the three were killed after Edward Morris had arranged to meet with Ray and Sharpe.
Early on, Sharpe and Ray were suspects but Gains said police — led by Barber, the lead investigator — sifted through evidence that needed to be tested and did a lot of legwork on the case.
Gains would not say what evidence police were waiting on but earlier, police had said they were waiting for the results of ballistic evidence collected at the scene that was sent for testing to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Gains said investigators also relied on the use of “digital” evidence to make their case, but he would not comment on what that evidence was.
“They went out beating the bushes, talking to people to secure an indictment,” Gains said of investigators.
He stressed the case is not closed and police are still looking for more evidence.
Gains also would not comment on a motive but earlier in the investigation, police said Edward Morris was having a feud with one of the suspects in the case.
Lees said police never let any homicide case go, but the fact that a child was killed gave investigators an extra incentive.
“[The death of a child] makes it all the more shocking so we would never give it a rest,” Lees said. “This has been an ongoing process.”
Barber told the victims’ family members about the indictments before the press conference.
Barber said detectives received more tips than normal in the case, which often happens when a child is killed.
Sharpe was taken into custody two days after the killings, questioned by detectives, then held in the county jail on a parole violation.
Sharpe was charged in September 2017 with aggravated murder in Columbus, but those charges were later dropped.
Gains said detectives have not yet been able to determine why Blair and their son were with Edward Morris when he went to meet Sharpe and Ray.
Lees said the case is one of several homicides from 2018 that police were able to solve this year. Of 26 homicides in 2018, 19 have been solved, with 10 of those being solved after the first of the year. That gives the department a solve rate of about 70%, which is above the national average, Lees said.
The triple homicide was one of 13 homicides between Oct. 25, 2018 and the end of 2019. At the time, police said several of those homicides were drug-related but Lees and Gains declined to say Monday if those killings were related to the triple homicide.
At the time, Lees said he was confident the case and others would be solved. He said he expects more cases from 2018 and the late-year surge in violence to also be solved.
Brown said the killings, especially the death of the child, deeply affected him.
“It was one of the toughest days I’ve ever had as mayor.”
Brown commended police for their work on the case and urged anyone with information to come forward.
If you know anything, please contact the Detective Division at 330-742-8911.