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Man faces jury after beating girlfriend to death

By Star Beacon, Ashtabula • Jul 29, 2018 at 8:00 PM

JEFFERSON (TNS) — An Ashtabula man, who police say beat his live-in girlfriend to death, will face a jury Jan. 22, 2019 in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court, records show.

Leonard M. Bankston, 53, of 856 W. 49th St., Ashtabula, was indicted Jan. 24 by a grand jury on two unclassified felony counts of murder, one second-degree felony count of felonious assault and one third-degree felony count of domestic violence in the death of Sheila M. Pyles, according to court records.

The next pretrial hearing is slated for 10 a.m. Aug. 13 in Common Pleas Judge Marianne Sezon's courtroom.

Bankston, who is being held in the county jail, has retained Youngstown attorney, Michael Ciccone.

According to prosecutors, Bankston and Pyles had a long, violent history. He accused Pyles of infidelity when she returned to his West 49th Street home in the days leading up to her death. When Pyles admitted it, Bankston attacked her, Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said. Investigators believe the assault took place between Dec. 8 and 10, 2017, according to the indictment.

Bankston called police to the home on the afternoon of Dec. 10 and told officers Pyles had overdosed. Police found Pyles alive, but unresponsive, according to Ashtabula City Police Department Chief Robert Stell.

"Her physical condition led (police on the scene) to believe it was more of a felonious assault than an overdose," he told the Star Beacon in December. "Officers also found evidence of a fight inside the house."

Pyles was flown to a Cleveland hospital Dec. 10, but died the following morning. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office later said Pyles died from blunt force trauma, and ruled her death as a homicide.

Iarocci has said Bankston admitted to attacking Pyles during an interview with Ashtabula investigators.

In 2015, Bankston reportedly spent 60 days in jail for assaulting Pyles. Iarocci said Pyles had previously refused to testify against Bankston in domestic violence cases. After pleading to one felony domestic violence count, he was credited for jail time served and was sentenced to community control.

"(Pyles) did not want to see Bankston incarcerated," he said in December. "She wanted him to get treatment."

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(c)2018 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

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