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Cops and Courts

Teens plead guilty in exchange for testimony in Elyria homicide (UPDATED)

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    Qwanda Woodson, left, and Justin Smith, right, appear in court Wednesday for plea bargain hearings in connection with the homicide of Cody Snyder.



ELYRIA — Two once-promising student-athletes likely will spend several years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday in connection with a fatal shooting that police say happened during a drug deal gone bad.

Qwanda Woodson, 17, of Elyria, and Justin Smith, 18, of Oberlin, will testify against their friend, who police say pulled the trigger in the fatal shooting of Cody Snyder, 19, in January.

In a hearing in front of visiting Judge Robert Brown, Woodson and Smith pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery and trafficking in drugs. Both have agreed to turn state’s evidence against Kajaun Anderson, 19, of Elyria, and two others charged in the case.

Anderson faces charges of aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, robbery and tampering with evidence. Police say Anderson was the shooter in a robbery during a drug deal.

Woodson and Smith will learn how much time they will serve after Anderson’s trial, which is set for December.

All of the charges against Woodson and Smith include firearm specifications, meaning each will face at least six years and up to 11 years in prison.

The Elyria courtroom was packed with family and friends of Snyder, Woodson and Smith. Snyder had cystic fibrosis and had a shorter life expectancy because of the illness, which had brought on several recurring lung infections. No one in his family expected the young man to die by gunshot.

Ron Snyder in a January interview called the crime “senseless” and said it “ruined so many families.” The elder Snyder remembered his son as a giving animal lover, who got his first job when he was just 14 at a local pet store. He worked as a service technician at All-Weather Heating and Cooling at the time of his death.

“At least right now, I don’t hold malice for their families,” he said then. “I just wish that someone had instilled values of life or self-respect so they wouldn’t do that and earn stuff. Evidently, something was lacking.”

Someone from Snyder’s family has attended nearly every hearing related to the multiple defendants in the case.

In addition to Woodson, Smith and Anderson, two others face charges in connection with this case.

Jeffrey Miraldi, 20, of Elyria, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, trafficking in drugs, four counts of tampering with evidence, possession of drugs and permitting drug abuse. A grand jury indicted Jenna Turner, 20, of Middleburg Heights, on three counts of tampering with evidence.

Police say Miraldi drove a 2014 Ford Focus to Clinton Avenue, with Turner and Snyder as passengers, to an alleged drug deal. The three planned to sell a half pound of marijuana to Woodson and Smith for $1,400, police said.

Smith and Woodson allegedly planned to rob Miraldi, Snyder and Turner with the help of Anderson, police said. While the transaction was taking place, Anderson allegedly opened the back door of the vehicle and pointed a gun inside. A confrontation ensued and Anderson shot Snyder in the chest, police said.

Miraldi drove Snyder to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where Snyder died from his injuries, police said.

In addition to the gun police say Anderson used to shoot Snyder, there was another gun at the scene of the shooting, one acquired by Miraldi, according to police. One of Miraldi’s tampering with evidence charges stemmed from him disposing of the firearm after Snyder died, police said.

The car Miraldi was driving during the incident was registered to his father, Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge John Miraldi.

The elder Miraldi is not under investigation, but his son’s involvement prompted a call for a special prosecutor to handle the case as well as the visiting judge. Brown is retired from the bench in Wayne County.

Many in Lorain County may know Woodson and Smith from their abilities on the football field and basketball court.

Woodson, who was 16 at the time of the robbery, played for the Elyria High School Pioneers. The former linebacker was a third-team selection in 2017 on the Division I All-Ohio football teams. He led the year with 106 tackles.

Smith enjoyed the position of “top shooter” on the Oberlin High School varsity basketball team. A 17-year-old senior at the time of the robbery/shooting, Smith averaged about 17 points a game.

Both Woodson and Smith remain in Lorain County Jail on $500,000 bonds despite attempts to get a bond reduction by Woodson’s defense attorney, James Burge, and Smith’s defense attorney, Michael Towne.

Brown said he was not ready to rule on the motion, although he noted that Miraldi, who also faces an involuntary manslaughter charge, received a much lower bond and is out while he awaits trial.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

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