YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A man accused of hacking a man to death in a vacant Willow Street home in 2019 and two other attacks pleaded guilty Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Leonard Carter, 32, was sentenced to 33 years in prison for the death of Marquees Shine, 30, who was found March 27, 2019, in a vacant 771 Willow St. home that later burned to the ground.
Carter pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of attempted murder and a count of rape with a sex offender specification.
DNA tests linked Carter to Shine’s body. Police estimated he had been dead about a week before he was found.
Police found Shine’s body after a man approached an officer on patrol in the area and said he was attacked in the home. Police investigating his claims found Shine’s body on the second floor.
Carter had also been charged with attempted murder for two previous attacks in the area.
Police said he would lure men to the Valley Street home and then attack them with a machete. He was indicted for those attacks before a superseding indictment in August 2020 charged him with aggravated murder for Shine’s death. That charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for Carter’s plea.
Carter has undergone two competency evaluations to determine if he is competent to stand trial and can aid in his own defense. In one of the evaluations, he was incompetent to stand trial but his competency was restored. An evaluation after that found him competent to stand trial.
Defense counsel Ed Hartwig said Carter did not want to go to trial, but he wanted a plea agreement. At first, prosecutors offered a 20 years to life sentence, but Carter rejected that, Hartwig said. Hartwig said his client wanted a set number of years and when prosecutors offered the deal with 33 years, he accepted that offer.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said the two victims who survived were dragged into a vacant home and hit with a machete. One of them was also hit with a brick. Both men survived by fighting back and running away, McLaughin said.
One of the surviving victims, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said he has not been able to work since he was attacked and he has been receiving counseling because of the attack.
“The whole way of living like I used to is gone,” the man said.
The other surviving victim emailed a statement that was read into the record by Assistant Prosecutor Martin Hume. He said Carter lured him to the Willow Street home and attacked him there, hitting him in the back with a machete.
“It was clear he was trying to cut my head off,” the statement said.
The man ran out of the home with Carter chasing him on McGuffey Road. He ran through traffic but no one would stop, the man said in his statement, before Carter gave up the chase.
“This moment of my life has marked me forever,” the man said in his statement. “I forgive you, Leonard, but I pray for justice for everyone that you hurt.”
Prosecutors were able to talk to Shine’s family members on the phone. They did not want to come to the sentencing, McLaughin said.
Hartwig said Carter’s family hopes he can get rehabilitation for his mental illness during his lengthy prison sentence. Hartwig said mental illness, while not an excuse, was a contributing factor.
Judge D’Apolito said he understands that Carter has some mental issues but that someone who has a history of violent behavior needs to be kept away from the public so no one gets hurt.
The rape count is for a sexual assault on one of the victims.