STEUBENVILLE - A Jefferson County Common Pleas Court jury was expected to begin deliberations by mid-afternoon today in the trial of Michael E. Mitchell, 38, who is charged in the Aug. 8 shooting death of his girlfriend, Marie Cantwell, at her home at 998 county Road 50, Irondale.
Mitchell is charged with murder and tampering with evidence.
The jury, consisting of eight men and four women, heard 16 witnesses on Thursday.
DEFENSE TABLE — Michael E. Mitchell, 38, left, talks with his defense attorney, Aaron Miller, during a break in Mitchell’s trial on Thursday in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court. Mitchell is charged in the Aug. 8 shooting death of his girlfiend, Marie Cantwell, at her home at 998 county Road 50, Irondale. --- Mark Law
Cantwell was found on her bed with a small-caliber gunshot wound to the head, reports indicated.
Mitchell, in a statement to Sheriff Fred Abdalla, said the shooting was accidental while he was twirling a .22-caliber pistol with a silencer
County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said Mitchell didn't call 911, police, ambulance or neighbor to say the shooting had occurred. She said from about 3 a.m., when the shooting happened, until 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 8, Mitchell hung around the house, telling Cantwell's children not to go into the bedroom. Mitchell left the house around 10:30 a.m. that day, telling Cantwell's children he planned to return, Hanlin said.
Mitchell had packed his truck with his belongings, including several firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition, and started to drive to the home of relatives in Beloit, but his truck broke down at the rest area on state Route 213, Hanlin said. A tow truck driver saw the .22-caliber handgun with the silencer on the front seat, she said.
The handgun was never recovered, Hanlin said.
"In the eight hours after, all he did was pack up, and left the three children in the house with their mother's dead body," she said.
Hanlin said Mitchell gave a three-hour taped statement to Abdalla, which was to be played to the jury today. She said there was no tears or sobbing when Mitchell gave the statement, in which he said the shooting was an accident.
Defense attorney Aaron Miller told the jury Mitchell's statement was consistent with what happened. He told the jury there was no fighting between Mitchell and Cantwell prior to the shooting.
"Sometimes when things don't make sense to the sheriff or prosecutor, there has to be a crime. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction," he said.
Miller said Mitchell didn't purposely cause the death of Cantwell. He said there may have been negligence and Mitchell may have "done something stupid."
The victim's daughter, Alexis Cantwell, 14, who now lives in Uniontown, Pa., said she couldn't sleep that night and went upstairs and got into bed with her mother. She said sometime in the middle of the night, she heard her mother cough. Hanlin said the mother also vomited.
The daughter said she told Mitchell something was wrong with her mother, but Mitchell responded, saying to let her be and "she'll be fine."
The next morning, the daughter said she went upstairs to ask for permission to visit a friend and found her mother unresponsive. The daughter said she went to the house of a neighbor, Candi Deardorff, who called police when Cantwell was found dead.
Cantwell's husband, Jonathon, said he had been separated from his wife, but the two still electronically communicated. He said his wife had sent him messages that she was scared of Mitchell, He said she would be both scared and happy with the relationship with Mitchell.
Deardorff said she was Cantwell's best friend. She said Cantwell "became isolated" since her relationship began with Mitchell, who was living at the Cantwell house.
Deardorff said Mitchell made comments several times about how he liked to "watch things die slowly" and it wouldn't bother him to kill another person.
Michael Clemm, Deardorff's boyfriend, also said he heard Mitchell make statements that it wouldn't bother him to kill someone. He said Mitchell carried the .22-caliber handgun with the silencer in a holster at his side.
Dustin Aldo, who used to live at Deardorff's house, said he also heard Mitchell say he kill someone without showing any emotions.
Charles Allen of East Liverpool, the tow truck driver, said Mitchell didn't seem upset or scared during the drive to Beloit with Mitchell's pickup truck on the back of Allen's tow truck.
Dr. Krista Timm, a medical examiner in Cuyahoga County, said she did the autopsy on Cantwell. She said Cantwell had a bullet wound above her right ear. She said the bullet was the eventual cause of death, saying Cantwell survived for a period of time after the shooting.
Ed Lulla, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said he processed the crime scene and gathered the pajama pants worn by Mitchell.
Donna Schwesinger, a BCI forensic scientist, said gunshot residue was found on the pajama pants.
Chief Steve McDaniel of the Goshin Police District said he was at the house when Mitchell was taken into custody in Beloit. He said he heard Mitchell say he was playing with a gun, it fired and a bullet may have hit his girlfriend. McDaniel said Mitchell said he got scared and left the Irondale house.
McDaniel, who said Mitchell was arrested without incident, seemed calm and not nervous.
Mitchell is expected to take the stand today in his own defense.
(Law can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)