Austintown Explosion Suspect Facing Robbery Charges

An Austintown man being held in the Mahoning County Jail on suspicion of breaking into a vacant house and stealing copper pipes, causing a gas explosion that lifted the home off its foundations, is also facing charges that he robbed two gas stations in Austintown during a 16-hour span in February.

Shawn Villers, 27, of Stanford Avenue, is being held in the jail after being arrested on suspicion of aggravated arson, possessing criminal tools and breaking and entering. He has not yet been formally charged, and police indicated they will wait to directly present the case to a Mahoning County grand jury that meets on Thursday.

Villers, who was charged in February with robbing two BP gas stations in Austintown at knifepoint and is being investigated by Weathersfield police for robbing a BP gas station the same month, was arrested Tuesday at a scrap dealer. Investigators believe he was stealing copper wire from the vacant home at 2196 S. Turner Road and cut a gas line.

The gas buildup caused the house to explode and knocked the house off its foundation. The garage door also was blown out and several windows were missing.

Reports say Villers on Feb. 15 was accused of robbing the BP gas station at 5502 Mahoning Ave. with a knife. Witnesses told police he walked into the gas station at about 8:20 p.m. with a gray mask and a gray striped hooded sweatshirt. Reports say he demanded money, saying “Give me the money, just shut up and give me the money.” Reports say he stole $121.

At about 12:15 p.m. the next day, reports say Villers, wearing the same mask and hooded sweatshirt and using the same 3-inch knife, robbed the BP gas station at 3602 Mahoning Ave. Reports say he showed the knife, demanded money and fled with $576.

Witnesses told police they saw him get into a green Kia Soul in a nearby Walgreen’s parking lot. Liberty police eventually apprehended Villers and a woman in the car, and found a crack pipe and a knife sheath inside the car.

Officers also found crack cocaine, a knife, a used syringe, a bag of copper wool and a spoon inside his motel room, reports say.

Drug charges were filed in Girard Municipal Court against Villers and the case is currently being reviewed by a Trumbull County grand jury, according to court records.

Officers were able to obtain several surveillance videos from area businesses for both robberies. They also matched footprints made in the snow. Reports say they found photos on Villers’ cell phone of him wearing the mask and the hooded sweatshirt.

Police filed charges March 8 and Villers turned himself into police March 23, wearing a similar gray striped hooded sweatshirt.

During the investigation, Weathersfield police discovered Villers may be a suspect in a February robbery of the BP gas station on Salts Springs Road near Interstate 80. Weathersfield Police Chief Joseph Consiglio said on Tuesday Villers was a suspect in the robbery and that they are awaiting DNA analysis to be completed before filing charges.

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