MAHONING COUNTY Testimony begins in murder case
The $170 drug debt went unpaid for months.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Prosecutors and an eyewitness say Sabrina Bray gunned down Alyson Buckner over an unpaid drug debt and left her for dead in April 2001.
But Bray's lawyer, Dennis DiMartino, says it wasn't Bray who pulled the trigger that day in an open field on the city's East Side.
A jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court must decide which side is telling the truth. Bray, 24, of Park Avenue, is on trial on murder charge. Jurors began hearing testimony Thursday in the courtroom of Judge Jack Durkin.
In her opening statement to jurors, assistant prosecutor Gina Arnaut said Bray sold drugs for a man named Daniel Carter. She said Bray arranged for Buckner to get crack cocaine from Carter, even though Bray didn't have money to pay for it.
When Buckner didn't pay up after several months had gone by, Bray shot her in the chest, killing her, Arnaut said.
"There's not a shred of physical evidence that ties [Bray] to the crime," DiMartino told jurors during his opening statement.
Carter, 29, testified that he gave Buckner about $170 worth of crack because Bray assured him that he would eventually get paid.
Carter said he wasn't worried about getting the money and had no intention of harassing Buckner, 29, over it.
"Were you a kinder, gentler drug dealer who just let people owe you money?" DiMartino asked.
"Actually, I was," Carter answered. He said he got out of the drug-dealing business two years ago because he "realized there was no future in it." He lays carpet for a living.
Carter said he drove Bray and Buckner to a house near Choffin Career Center on East Wood Street on April 5, 2001, because Buckner said she knew someone there who would give her money to pay the debt. When she was unable to get the money, they got back in the car and just "drove randomly around."
They ended up on Cloister Avenue, near Augustine Avenue on the East Side. Carter said he ordered Buckner to get out of the car, thinking that Bray would get out and beat up Buckner and that they would then leave Buckner to walk home.
Instead, he said Bray pulled out a 9 mm pistol and shot Buckner once in the chest as Buckner got out of the vehicle. They drove away and left her laying in the field.
Carter said he took the gun away from Bray and hid it at a friend's house, from where it was "mysteriously stolen."
DiMartino said he believes Carter is the killer and is putting the blame on Bray, which Carter denied.
Under Ohio law, a murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison.