Teen murder trial begins: Suspect charged with shooting other teen in Middletown

A trial for a teen charged with the fatal shooting of another teen last spring is scheduled to begin today in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Gonnii White, now 17, is charged with murder with the specifications that he used a firearm and was participating in a gang at the time of the shooting death of Joesph Davis, 17, near the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Garfield Street during the late-night hours of May 29, 2018.

White is being tried as an adult after the case was bound over to Common Pleas Court by Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Romans. His trial was scheduled for last month but was but was continued by Judge Noah Powers II for a fourth time at the request of the defense.

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In January, following a hearing during which a tape of Middletown detectives questioning the teen was played, Powers ruled White’s confession will be permitted as evidence at trial.

Upton filed a motion to suppress the statement, arguing White’s rights were violated. In the motion, Upton said White was 16 at the time of the interrogation by police and was not accompanied by an attorney, parent or guardian.

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Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress said in a written response that White was read his Miranda warning just seven minutes into the 60-minute interview with Detective Kristi Hughes and Detective Steve Winters after they asked basic questions including date of birth, phone number and family history.

The prosecution said White voluntarily made statements and was not coerced by the detectives in any way.

Powers agreed with the prosecution and overruled the motion to suppress.

Self defense may be part of the defense presented at trial.

During the interrogation tape played at the suppression hearing, White first tells detectives he had been in Douglass Park with friends on May 29, 2018 but went home about 8 p.m. to sleep. He says he talked with his girlfriend and tried to show Middletown Police Detective Kristi Hughes messages and call history on his phone, perhaps to create an alibi.

During testimony at the hearing, Middletown Police Detective Steve Winters said White was not being truthful based on the investigation and he was trying to get him to admit what he had done.

“If you were protecting yourself, I get it. But don’t lie to us when we are trying help you,” Winters tells White in the interview.

Eventually, White says he was with others when he saw Davis on a bike and saw him make a movement at his side.

“I was scared for my life, (I thought) he had a gun,” White said. “I shot in the air and closed my eyes and shot.”

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