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Cops and Courts

Unsealed warrants reveal details in Elyria homicide

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ELYRIA — Search warrants unsealed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court this week detail Elyria Police Department detectives’ efforts to get evidence in the murder of an Elyria man who was shot and killed during an apparent drug deal-turned-robbery in October 2018.

Three men — Lance Cheers, 29, and Larry Hamilton Jr., 24, both of Lorain, and Keeon Green Jr., 19, of Elyria — all are charged with murder, robbery, tampering with evidence and firearms specifications in the death of 20-year-old Zachary Mason of Elyria. All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges in Lorain County Common Pleas Court and are being held in the Lorain County Jail pending trial.

Hamilton’s next court hearing is Monday before Judge Mark Betleski. Cheers also will next appear in court on Monday, before Judge Jim Miraldi. Green’s next court hearing is Wednesday in Judge Jim Miraldi’s courtroom.

According to Elyria police, all three men planned to rob Zachary Mason at the Southwyck Apartments complex on West River Road North on Oct. 1.

Police obtained search warrants for information from Facebook and Facebook Messenger because Mason “was known to sell drugs and that buyers would arrange drug sales with Mason by contacting him through Facebook Messenger,” according to an affidavit written by Elyria police Detective James Homoki. “Mason’s Facebook page contained photographs of large amounts of money and narcotics and posts referenced drug trafficking.”

Detectives learned Green had contacted another man to get Mason’s phone number so he could buy marijuana. Green then contacted Mason via Facebook Messenger to set up the deal, according to the affidavit.

Green, Cheers and Hamilton then drove to the Southwyck Apartments, where Green was living with his mother, with plans to rob Mason of his drugs and money. They were armed with a handgun, according to Elyria police.

Mason and another man arrived at the complex in a separate vehicle. Mason again contacted Green on Facebook Messenger and was told to “come to the door,” while the other man stayed in the vehicle, according to Elyria police.

Soon after, at about 6 p.m., witnesses heard gunshots and saw Mason run out of the apartment complex and collapse between two parked vehicles, according to Elyria police. Shot multiple times, he later died at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.

Detectives also recovered slightly more than 22 grams of marijuana from Mason and performed a gunshot residue test on him, according to the affidavit.

Mason’s friend who accompanied him to the drug sale said Mason had between $2,000 and $3,000 on him when he entered the apartment, but none of that money was found on Mason at the hospital, according to Elyria police.

Green allegedly deactivated his Facebook account “at approximately 7 p.m., within a couple hours of the shooting,” according to one of the search warrant affidavits.

Detectives also sought to further search Apartment F at 1444 West River Road N., where Green lived with his mother.

Knowing that multiple gunshots — at least six, police said — had been fired, they were worried other people might have been hit by stray bullets.

Outside the apartment, in the hallway, were multiple shell casings, scattered loose marijuana and marijuana buds “similar in appearance to the marijuana located on Mr. Mason’s person” at the hospital, and officers found additional marijuana inside Green’s apartment, according to another search warrant affidavit written by Elyria police Detective Ben Harris seeking to further search Green’s apartment for drugs or drug paraphernalia, weapons and ammunition, cash, blood and biological evidence.

Another 8.6 grams of marijuana were found inside and outside Apartment F and were seized as evidence, along with some swabs of red stains found there, shell casings and other potential evidence including a gold chain, a gold ring, bullet fragments, clothing and towels.

Detectives also extracted cell phone data, performed multiple interviews and got signed consent forms from the then-suspects, later defendants, according to documents attached to the search warrants.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.


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