YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Jury selection was cut short Friday in the murder case of Robert Brooks.
In a surprise move, Brooks pleaded guilty to all seven charges he was faced with, including two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of aggravated arson, in the Sept. 20, 2010, murder of Youngstown Realtor Vivian Martin, 67.
Brooks and Grant Cooper lured Martin to a house on Youngstown’s east side, pretending they wanted to buy a house. They robbed her, strangled her and then set the house on fire with her body inside.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 1. The death penalty was taken off the table in return for Brooks’ plea.
Friday’s plea deal does not mean the pain is over for Martin’s daughter, Davida Brown. But it does take away some of the dread.
“We don’t have to sit and listen to all the drama and hearing how it actually happened to my mom,” Brown said. “I was very happy that he pleaded guilty. I am just waiting for him to get sentenced. Hopefully it will be life without parole. We will never have justice, but we will have closure.”
Brooks said his military service and injuries left him with PTSD and that played a role in the brutal murder. Martin’s niece was also in the courtroom. She also is a military veteran.
“We are taught as military personnel that we are to protect our civilians and not to hunt our civilians. For me, he disgraces the military,” Kathy Lewis said.
The plea deal was unexpected and came after a jailhouse visit by Brooks’ mom.
“It’s ironic that he needed his mother when he took my cousins’ mother from them. That is very ironic. So he knows the value of having a mom. And he had that chance to have his but they don’t have that anymore,” Lewis said.
She said Brooks should have pleaded guilty four years ago.
Brown said she is glad that Brooks’ mother talked to him and thinks maybe that is the reason he decided to plead guilty.
Brown said he’s still angry with Brooks and doesn’t see that changing.
“I do hate him. I do hate him without even knowing him. I hate him very much,” she said.
Grant Cooper pleaded guilty in July to his role in the murder. He was expected to testify at Brooks’ trial.
Cooper is set for sentencing in early October.