Witnesses testify at trial of murdered KSU student


Kent Police Officer Sarah Berkey describes the layout of Ryan Place apartments where the shooting happened to the jurors at the Portage Common Court of Pleas in Ravenna on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016

Matt Poe

Two witnesses present during the murder of Kent State freshman Nicholas Massa testified on Monday at the Portage County Court of Common Pleas in Ravenna. Massa, 18, was murdered on Feb. 7, during a break-in at Ryan Place Apartments on East Main Street. 

The witnesses, both of whom were roommates leasing the apartment, testified that the defendant, Damantae Graham, 19, entered the apartment with two other men demanding money and marijuana. Massa was visiting friends at the apartment when he was shot and killed in the altercation. 

The alleged perpetrators, Marquis Grier, 17; Ty Kremling, 17; and Graham fled the scene, and were later arrested by Kent City Police. A fourth suspect was also arrested after the incident, Anton J. Planicka, 17, but was not identified as present during the shooting. 

After opening remarks, Dena Campbell, a clerk for the Kent City Police Department, answered the 911 call around 4 p.m. Audio of the call was then played for the jurors and courtroom, where one of the witnesses allegedly identified Kremling as one of the men present at the scene during the shooting.

Sarah Berkey, a patrol officer for KCPD, gave her testimony for when she responded to the scene of the shooting.

Emotions ran high in the courtroom as images of the crime scene were examined by witnesses and the jurors.

Portage County Prosecutor Vic Vigluicci’s examinations focused heavily on the layout of the apartment, the entry and exit points of the alleged robber, and what took place inside the apartment prior to the shooting. Vigluicci questioned the relationships between Massa and the two witnesses, as well as their relationships to the alleged gunmen.  

Both witnesses gave similar accounts of the events prior to and after the shooting, and were visibly upset during their respective testimonies. They claimed that two of the three men held them and Massa at gunpoint while they searched the apartment for the money and alleged drug paraphernalia. 

Massa then challenged the gunman and stated that he would not shoot them before the man described as Graham fatally shot Massa, according to witnesses. He was pronounced dead when first responders arrived at the scene.

Graham is eligible for the death penalty under Ohio law, as he was an adult during the time of the alleged murder. All four suspects are being held on $2 million bond. The trial remains ongoing, according to The Record Courier.

Matt Poe is a senior reporter, contact him at [email protected]