10-month investigation relies on phone records

Category:  News
Thursday, September 24th, 2015 at 7:15 AM
10-month investigation relies on phone records by Karlee Dies
A third suspect in the shooting of Tobiah J. Johnson, Ryan C. Andrews, of Pittsburgh, appeared in front of Magisterial District Judge Denise Stuck-Lewis on Tuesday Sept. 22. | Photo by Karlee Dies

Trey Gunter has plead guilty to third degree murder in the death of Tobiah J. Johnson, which occurred on Nov. 17 at 123 Water St. in Edinboro.

According to GoErie, he “appeared in court for an evidence suppression hearing but entered the plea instead.” He was set to head to trial on Oct. 12. Gunter will reportedly not be prosecuted on his remaining charges. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 5.

This past week, two additional suspects in the shooting of Johnson were arrested, with both Ryan C. Andrews and Michael D. Barron now in Erie County Prison without bond.

The 10-month investigation in search of Andrews and Barron relied heavily on reported cell phone records and interviews, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

The Investigation

During the investigation, the cell phone of Gunter was obtained and examined by Pennsylvania State Police. Police would find a series of calls and text messages between Gunter and two other numbers, reportedly discovered to be used by Andrews and Barron. 

At 8:32 p.m., the night of the shooting on Nov. 17, after police were called to the scene, a series of text messages between Gunter, Barron and Andrews is described by the affidavit. It states that Gunter wanted to know if “Mike” grabbed his (Johnson’s) phone. Andrews responded to Gunter with “yea” and “we both at the crib now.” Gunter would then reportedly reply with “delete everything out our phones and his.” Andrews reportedly texted, “break our main phone” to which, Gunter responded “naw his man.”

A short time later, Barron reportedly called Gunter and Gunter called Barron back one minute later. Barron and Gunter then would exchange further text messages, according to the affidavit. The police also found text messages and phone calls between the three suspects in the days leading up the homicide. The telephone records of Andrews and Barron also reportedly show contact between the two many times in the days leading up to the shooting, including near the time the homicide occurred, according to the affidavit.

Utilizing cell phone towers and mapping, the affidavit also states the three cell phones analyzed, “activated the same cellular towers at roughly the same times in several different locations in the Edinboro area just prior to and just after this homicide.”

In January of this year, Edinboro Police traveled to Pittsburgh to interview Andrews, who stated, according to the affidavit, that he was in Edinboro visiting his girlfriend but did not remember when he arrived. He then would reportedly state he had left early Monday morning, Nov. 17, before the shooting took place.

In March of 2015, Barron came to the Edinboro Borough Police to be interviewed because it was found that he fit the description a witness provided of the unknown black male that had attacked Johnson along with Gunter. According to the affidavit, Barron said he and Gunter were acquaintances and that he knew Andrews, but “not that well.” Both Andrews and Barron reportedly denied being in Edinboro at the time of the shooting.

According to the affidavit, Barron was then identified by a witness as one of the attackers, utilizing an Instagram photo and the same witness would also identify Andrews, known to a witness as “Money,” from a police photo as the driver of the vehicle that night.

On Sept. 21, Barron turned himself in to Edinboro Police. He was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit homicide, homicide, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person. Just one day later, Andrews was “picked up” by the U.S. Marshals Service in Pittsburgh, according to GoErie. He was arraigned on the same charges. Andrews’ preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 6; Barron’s preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 5.

The Shooting

According to the affidavit of probable cause, on Nov. 17, at approximately 11:57 a.m., 21-year-old Gunter reportedly went to the Edinboro Borough Police Department to report a burglary that he said occurred at his home on Nov. 11. Gunter stated his handgun, a Springfield Model XD40, was stolen from his apartment.

Later that night, at approximately 6:10 p.m., Officer Lawrence, of the Edinboro Borough Police Department, responded to a call of “someone just got shot,” at 123 Water Street in Edinboro. With two Edinboro University police officers, he discovered the body of Johnson. The body was found lying near the rear door of apartment #27E.

Lawrence and Edinboro Police Chief Jeff Craft spoke to a witness, who stated that Gunter had shot Johnson. The witness also stated that another black male was fighting with Johnson prior to Johnson being shot by Gunter. The attack is said to have stemmed from Gunter’s stolen gun.

According to the affidavit, they had just returned to the residence. The witness stated they had noticed a vehicle backed into the rear parking lot of the apartment building. They reportedly described the vehicle involved in this case as being a four door, silver, Chrysler Sebring with tinted windows and a blue flashing light in the front window. This description reportedly matched that of the vehicle Gunter was seen leaving the Borough Police Department in earlier that day.

The affidavit stated this got the attention of Johnson and he kept an eye on it as they continued to walk to the apartment. The witness indicated Johnson was so focused on the vehicle that he didn’t notice the, at that time, unknown male come around the corner of the building. The male reportedly punched Johnson in the head and continued to punch him as he fell to the ground. The witness said another male, whom they identified as Gunter, got out of the vehicle and came over to them. Gunter began striking Johnson in the head with the butt of a handgun. As Johnson was on the ground, the witness heard a shot fired. Gunter reportedly stated, “he still got the joint on him.”

The fight continued as Johnson tried to get up. The witness stated Gunter stopped, pointed the gun at Johnson, and fired one shot into his lower right back area.

Johnson was pronounced dead shortly after by Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook.

Karlee Dies is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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