BOARDMAN — Michael N. Bruno, 49, tried to plead guilty, asked to go to mental health court, apologized and said, “I’m very confused,” when he was arraigned for aggravated murder Tuesday in Mahoning County Area Court.
Bruno is a former Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office deputy who started as a reserve deputy in 1995 and became a full-time deputy in April 2000. He retired in November 2006.
He is charged with the shooting death of his father, Michael J. Bruno, 74, who had died Saturday morning when Boardman police arrived at their home on Lealand Avenue in Boardman.
A Boardman police report states that Michael N. Bruno told police in a 7:30 a.m. 911 call that he shot his father, and that he did so because “his illness pushed him to do it”. We didn’t know what disease he was talking about.
He was sitting on the lawn in his boxers, flip flops and polo shirt, with blood on his arms, head and shirt when officers arrived, the report said.
During the arraignment, Judge Joseph Houser told Bruno a few times that his comments about the mental health court and his guilt did not answer the questions the judge was asking, as if he understood the charges. against him and if he had anything to say about the amount of bail an assistant county prosecutor was recommending.
He advised Bruno not to talk about the facts of the case. No plea is requested or accepted in a felony case in a lower court such as Boardman Area Court, so Bruno’s remark about his guilt was not accepted.
Bruno appears to have no criminal history in Mahoning County.
When Houser first spoke to the defendant, who was taken by video from the Mahoning County Jail, he asked if Bruno understood he was being charged with offenses that could result in prison terms of more than 10 years.
Bruno didn’t respond right away but eventually said, “I would like to go to mental health court.” But the judge told him that an indictment only deals with preliminary issues, saying, “We’re not there yet. Do you understand the accusation, Monsieur Bruno?
“Yes,” answered Bruno.
Houser told Bruno that the next hearing is a preliminary hearing to determine if there is probable cause that he may have committed the crime. The judge asked Bruno if he wanted this hearing to take place in 10 days or sooner.
“Guilty,” Bruno replied.
“OK, that’s not a guilty plea at this point,” Houser told him.
The judge set the hearing for 11 a.m. on September 27.
Bruno then said he would need a public defender and testified that he only had a small amount of money. He said he made about $300 over two weeks at work and had about $600 in his bank account and did not own a vehicle or real estate.
Boardman’s police report says Bruno indicated he had been working as an unarmed security guard for two weeks.
Assistant District Attorney Katherine Jones asked the judge to keep Bruno in jail instead of a $500,000 bond because of the type of crime involved. The judge then asked Bruno if he wanted to say anything about the recommendation of the prosecution.
“I am truly sorry for what happened to Mahoning County and Trumbull County and surrounding counties,” he said. “And I just want mental health to improve my life and work and treat people right, I’m so sorry. I never wanted this to happen.
“OK, I don’t want you to get into the facts of the case,” the judge said. “I just want to know if you want to say anything on your behalf regarding the link, anything else regarding the link.”
Bruno said he was “very confused”.
The deputies with him in prison again explained the matter, and Bruno said that he had nothing to say about the amount of bail.
Houser sets bail at $500,000.
The police report says the first officer to arrive at the Mathews Road home found Bruno sitting in the front yard holding his mobile phone. He told the policeman that he was unarmed. The officer ordered Bruno to lie on his stomach with his arms outstretched, which he did, and he was handcuffed.
Bruno said only his father was in the house. A detective entered and in a bedroom found Bruno’s father, owner of the house, dead with multiple gunshot wounds.
When the officer asked Bruno what happened, Bruno said he had been “ill for at least a week and a half and had two rapid tests at home”.
The officer asked if he meant a test for COVID-19, and Bruno said yes. When Bruno was asked about a gun, Bruno said “illness forced him to have a gun”. He denied arguing with his father before shooting him, the report said.
“So you just shot him?”
“Yes,” said Bruno.
He told the officer he had a ‘baby Glock’ he got when he was a law enforcement officer, and it was the gun he used to shoot his father .
Bruno said he contracted COVID-19 twice and had to cancel his security work. “This disease is taking over America,” Bruno said. The officer took Bruno to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital for treatment before being taken to jail.
Bruno told the officer he hoped his father was alive. He said his mother is in a nursing home. The police then contacted his mother to inform her of the death of the elder Bruno.
Officers obtained a search warrant to search the house.
The police report says multiple firearms were found at the home, including a Glock pistol and numerous spent bullet casings.
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