Murder charged in Irondale

STEUBENVILLE – Michael Mitchell, 38, of 998 county Road 50, Irondale, was arrested around 9:40 p.m. Thursday at a relative’s house in Beloit in connection with the shooting death of his girlfriend, Maria Cantwell, 38, earlier in the day at their home, said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

Mitchell was charged with murder and is lodged in the Jefferson County jail this morning.

Abdalla said Mitchell during an interview with the sheriff claimed the shooting was an accident.

“I asked him then why he didn’t call 911,” Abdalla said.

Abdalla said Cantwell was shot in the side of the head with a small caliber handgun around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Cantwell’s three children were in the home and her 13-year-old daughter was sleeping in bed with her mother when the shooting occurred, Abdalla said.

The sheriff said the daughter saw her mother throwing up in bed. Mitchell told the girl that her mother would be OK and they would take her to the hospital later if she wasn’t feeling better, Abdalla said. The mother had not been feeling good for the past couple days, Abdalla said, adding that was why the daughter was sleeping with her mother.

Mitchell left the home around 10:40 a.m. Thursday, telling Cantwell’s daughter he would return in about 30 minutes. Abdalla said the daughter then tried to wake her mother. She then went to a neighbor’s house, who called 911, the sheriff said.

“She didn’t see it. She was sleeping next to her mom when she was shot. The girl didn’t even know that,” Abdalla said.

Abdalla said Cantwell’s eye was swollen and he began to feel around the side of the head and saw a small hole he believed was caused by a .22-caliber bullet. Cantwell’s body was taken to Trinity Medical Center West, where an X-ray revealed metal fragments, he said.

The body was taken to the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office for an autopsy.

Abdalla said Mitchell was driving on state Route 213 when his pickup truck broke down at the rest area at the intersection of state Route 7. A tow truck from East Liverpool came and took the truck and Mitchell to his uncle’s house in Beloit, located in southern Mahoning County just across the border with Columbiana County, Abdalla said.

Goshen Township Police Department and the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, Mountain State Fugitive Task Force, as well as the U.S. Marshals Service helped in the search for Mitchell.

Abdalla someone had posted on Facebook that Mitchell was being sought in connection with the shooting death. The tow truck driver’s wife saw the posting and called the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, saying she recognized the man’s picture.

A county sheriff’s deputy and a U.S. Marshal went to the house in Beloit and saw the truck, the sheriff said.

A search warrant was obtained and the house was searched, and Mitchell was taken into custody.

“I couldn’t ask for more help,” Abdalla said about the number of law enforcement that assisted.

He said the investigation into the shooting death is continuing with Saline Township Police Chief Cliff Utt.

Utt said his officers have been called to the house before, though never for any serious matters or domestic violence issues. “We’ve responded here for minor calls in the past, but nothing of this extent,” Utt said.