On an early July morning in 2022, police was called to a gruesome scene in the Cleveland suburb of Strongville, Ohio. A Toyota Camry, driven by a 17-year old girl, had crashed into a brick building at a speed of 100 miles per hour, killing the two teenage passengers.
In late August of this year, the driver, Mackenzie Shirilla, now 19, was convicted in a bench trial on 12 counts: four of murder, four of felonious assault, two of aggravated vehicular homicide, one of drug possession and one of possessing criminal tools. According to the judge, Shirilla intentionally crashed the car, killing her boyfriend, Dominic Russo, 20, and his friend, Davion Flanagan, 19. With Shirilla in tears, the judge sentenced her to two concurrent 15-years-to-life prison terms, meaning she can be eligible for parole after 15 years.
Radio Law Talk Discusses Shirilla Verdict
Here’s a breakdown of what transpired before Shirilla was sentenced:
“Her actions were controlled, methodical, deliberate, intentional and purposeful. This was not reckless driving. This was murder,” said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, according to NBC. “I understand that the pain in this room wants me to impose the harshest sentence, but I don’t believe that would be the appropriate sentence, because I do believe that Mackenzie won’t be out in 15 years,”
The Mackenzie Shirilla Case: What Happened
The Lead Up to the Crash
Prosecutors said Shirilla had a toxic relationship with Russo. Two weeks before the crash, Shirilla threatened to crash her car with Russo while they were driving. Russo called his mother for help, and a friend picked him up. Shirilla allegedly made multiple threats to Russo in the month leading up to the crash, including threatening to key his car and break a door handle.
The Car Crash
At 5:30 a.m. on July 31, 2022, a video showed Shirilla driving her car at the astonishing speed of 100 miles per hour. The car’s computer and video cameras registered that the steering wheel was turned quickly to the right and then to the left before the car left the road and crashed. When police arrived shortly after 6 a.m., they found the demolished vehicle with Shirilla trapped in the driver’s seat and a fuzzy Prada slipper stuck to the accelerator. Davion Flanagan and Dominic Russo were pronounced dead at the scene, while Shirilla was flown to MetroHealth in Cleveland for treatment.
The judge would later portray her as “literal hell on wheels,” continuing “The [crash] video clearly shows the purpose and intent of the defendant. She chose a course of death and destruction that day.”
“Even if Mackenzie also intended to die in this crash, that is irrelevant,” said Judge Russo. “A failed suicide attempt is not a defense to murder.”
According to the prosecution’s case, she intentionally tried to kill both individuals in the car. They cited prior issues in the relationship and claimed that she had made threats in the past about harming others with her car. Among notable moments: Prosecutors played TikTok clips in court in which Shirilla claimed, “I’m the one you die for,” and, “I’m not even cool, I’m just one of those girls who can do a lot of drugs and not die,” The Messenger reported.
The prosecution also argued her actions were premeditated, pointing to evidence that she had scoped out the route before and knew where she was going. They claimed this showed a clear intent to cause harm.
At the sentencing hearing, the prosecution argued that Shirilla showed no remorse for her actions by showing videos of her attending concerts and college parties after the crash. Shirilla’s mother said she encouraged her daughter to go to these events and asked the judge for leniency, calling the crash “a tragic accident” that Shirilla doesn’t remember. About the parties, the mother commented, she “just needed a second of fun for losing her whole world.”
The judge said Shirilla intentionally crashed her car into a building at an hour when there were few witnesses around and that she had been planning the crash for days, driving a route that she didn’t normally use.
Impact of a Second Passenger
One significant factor in the case was the presence of the friend in the backseat of the car. This led to an additional charge because it was argued that she didn’t alter her plans despite the fact that someone unrelated to the troubled relationship was in the vehicle.
Witnesses testified that prior to the crash, she had gone to her boyfriend’s house, behaving erratically, and threatening to harm him and his property.
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