BOARDMAN – Michael N. Bruno, 49, tried to plead guilty, asked to go to mental health court, apologized and said, “I’m so confused,” when he was summoned for premeditated murder Tuesday in Mahoning County Court.
Bruno is a former deputy in the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, who started as a reserve deputy in 1995 and became a full-time deputy in April 2000. He retired in November 2006.
He is accused of shooting his father, Michael J. Bruno, 74, who was killed Saturday morning when Boardman police arrived at their Leland Street home in Boardman.
Boardman’s police report stated that Michael N. Bruno told police on a 7:30 a.m. 911 call that he had shot his father, and he did so because “his illness made him do so.” It was not clear what disease he was talking about.
He was seated in the front lawn in shorts, flip-flops and a polo shirt, the report said, with blood on his arms, head and shirt when the officers arrived.
During the trial, Judge Joseph Houser told Bruno several times that his comments about the Mental Health Court and his guilt did not answer the questions asked by the judge, such as whether he understood the charges against him and whether he had anything to say about them. The amount of the bond recommended by the assistant district attorney.
Bruno advised not to talk about the facts of the case. No payment in a felony case was ever sought or accepted in a lower court such as the Boardman Area Court, so Bruno’s remark about his conviction was not accepted.
Bruno appears to have no previous criminal history in Mahoning County.
When Houser first addressed the defendant, who was video summoned from Mahoning County Jail, he asked if Bruno understood that he was accused of crimes that could lead to prison terms of more than 10 years.
Bruno didn’t immediately reply but eventually said, “I’d like to go to mental health court.” But the judge told him that the pleading deals only with preliminary matters, saying, “We haven’t gotten there yet. Do you understand the charge, Mr. Bruno?”
Bruno answered, “Yes.”
Hauser told Bruno that the next hearing is a preliminary hearing to determine if there was a possible cause of the crime. Judge Bruno asked if he wanted the hearing to take place in 10 days or less.
“Guilty,” Bruno replied.
“Well, that’s not an admission of guilt at this point,” Hauser told him.
The judge scheduled the hearing for 11 a.m. on September 27.
Bruno then said he would need a court-appointed lawyer and testified that he only had a small amount of money. He said he was earning about $300 over a two-week job and had about $600 in his bank account and no car or real estate.
Boardman’s police report notes that Bruno has indicated that he has been working as an unarmed security guard for the past two weeks.
Assistant District Attorney Catherine Jones requested that Judge Bruno be held in prison in lieu of a $500,000 bond due to the type of crime involved. Judge then asked Bruno if he wanted to say anything about the attorney general’s office’s recommendation.
“I am very sorry about what happened to Mahoning County, 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 meant for this to happen.”
“Well, I don’t want you to go into the facts of the case,” the judge said. “I just want to know if you want me to say anything on your behalf regarding the bond, or anything else to do with the bond.”
Bruno said he was “very confused.”
Deputies with him in prison explained the question again, and Bruno said he had nothing to say about the amount of the bail.
The head of the family put the bond in the amount of $500,000.
The police report states that the first officer who arrived at the house off Matthews Road found Bruno sitting in the front yard with his cell phone. He told the officer that he was unarmed. The officer ordered Bruno to lie on his stomach and arms, which he did, and his hands tied.
Bruno said only his father was at home. A detective entered and found in the bedroom of Bruno’s father, the owner of the house, dead with multiple gunshot wounds.
When the officer asked Bruno what happened, Bruno said he had “been sick for at least a week and a half and had two rapid tests at home.”
The officer asked if he meant to get tested for COVID-19, and Bruno answered yes. When Bruno was asked about the gun, Bruno said, “Illness made him have a gun.” The report stated that he denied having a quarrel with his father before he was shot.
“So did you just shoot him after that?”
“Yes,” Bruno said.
He told the officer he had a “baby Glock” he got when he was a law enforcement officer, and that’s the gun he used to shoot his father.
Bruno said he contracted COVID-19 twice and had to cancel his security job. “This disease is taking over America,” Bruno said. The officer took Bruno to St Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital for treatment before he was taken to prison.
Bruno tells the officer that he hopes his father will live. He said his mother is in a nursing home. The police later called his mother to inform her of Bruno the Elder’s death.
The officers obtained a search warrant to search the house.
The police report notes that several firearms were found in the home, including a Glock pistol and several bullet casings.