WARREN - Michael ''Meatball'' Burns and his buddies planned to steal scrap metal from a Niles home and use the proceeds to go to the Trumbull County Fair last summer, according to a prosecutor trying Burns for murder and involuntary manslaughter charges.
Burns, 34, of Niles, also faces attempted burglary charges in the case of a group poised and ready to break into the Niles home until the homeowner shot through the front door and killed one of the would-be thieves.
Assistant county prosecutor Chris Becker has said that even though it was the intended victim who pulled the trigger, Burns and others involved can be charged with murder because they were committing a felony during which someone died.
Trumbull County assistant prosecutor Chris Becker, left, has Niles police detective Jim Robbins on the witness stand to identify a rifle Monday morning in a murder case. Michael Burns of Niles is accused of murder even though the owner of a home who said people were trying to break into his house was the one who pulled the trigger.
Tribune Chronicle photo / R. Michael Semple
A jury of six men and six women was seated Monday in the courtroom of Judge Andrew Logan. The panel also spent part of the afternoon viewing the scene of the crime before listening to opening statements from Becker and Burns' attorney, Ron Yarwood.
Burns remains in Trumbull County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond.
The jury heard Detective Jim Robbins of Niles Police Department detail what he found in his investigation. The lead investigator in the case also was seen questioning Burns on a taped video that was played for jurors.
Robbins remains on the stand today.
Even though Burns could be convicted of both murder and manslaughter, he can only be sentenced on one of the charges.
Burns was actually hit in the upper right arm with gunfire that passed through the chest of 36-year-old Terry Allen, who was killed July 12 when homeowner Roy Hahn, 40, fired a shot through the front door of his Niles Cortland Road home when he heard Allen, Burns and Scott Crislip, 18, also of Niles, trying to break into the house, Beecher said.
Hahn was cleared of any wrongdoing, according to an opinion from the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office, which stated that Hahn's actions would not be presented to a grand jury since the only ''possible crimes were committed by the deceased and his accomplices.'' Hahn has lived at the home the past 15 years.
Becker said Hahn admitted snorting cocaine the night before the shooting, but Robbins said Hahn didn't appear to be at all intoxicated the night of the attempted burglary and shooting.
Allen, who was wearing camouflage clothing, was found with a crowbar still in his gloved hands.
Allen's wife, Nichole, 35, of Mineral Ridge, and Mindy Sierra, 32, of McDonald, face the same charges as Burns and Crislip and they had left the scene of the shooting after dropping off the three men.