YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Four years after a Youngstown real estate agent was murdered, her surviving family members said they finally are seeing justice.
“Did we get all the justice we wanted to? No. But we did get some. And now we have closure and now we can begin to heal as a family. We want to say ‘thank you’ to the judge for getting this thing done,” Donna James, the victim’s daughter, said.
Grant Cooper 25, was sentenced to 29 years in prison on Thursday morning after previously pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He is the second of two men convicted in the robbery and strangulation of real estate agent Vivian Martin, 67, in 2010.
On Wednesday, Robert Brooks was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the crime. He pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated arson.
Cooper also was charged with kidnapping, aggravated robbery and arson, but he was allowed to plead to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for his testimony against Brooks. However, Cooper was never called to testify because Brooks entered his guilty plea before a jury was ever seated for his trial.
Prosecutors said making the deal was a tough decision.
“But we could see that Brooks already was involved in the first robbery, so we knew there was something going on with Brooks more. And the fact Cooper already had said that Brooks was threatening him, threatening his uncle,” Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said.
Cooper and Brooks lured Martin to an address on the city’s east side by telling her they wanted to look at a house for sale. The two robbed and strangled Martin and then set the house on fire to cover up the crime.
Retired Stark County Judge Lee Sinclair was brought in to handle the cases against Cooper and Brooks after Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge James Evans announced his retirement this summer.
After the sentencing, relatives of Martin said they have established a scholarship in her memory, saying the woman who dropped out of school to have a baby when she was 15, but later obtained a master’s degree, wanted all of her children to get an education.
“I have a master’s degree at Youngstown State University. She talked to everybody about how people can take things from you, but they cannot take your education from you. So she believed in that,” her daughter, Donna James, said.
Family members, along with other local real estate agents, will hold a fundraiser to support the scholarship in November.