By DORIS COOK

Staff Writer

dcook@starbeacon.com



JEFFERSON - -Alleged burglary ring leader Matthew Dioneff, 33, of Pierpont Township showed little emotion Thursday as his ex-girlfriend Kathleen Cunha of Geneva testified for more than an hour as a prosecution witness.

The trial resumes today with Cunha still on the witness stand. The jury recessed for the night at 4:30 p.m.

Dioneff of 1902 Middle Road is charged with multiple felony counts including burglary, receiving stolen property and engaging in a pattern of corruption. He was arrested along with other ring members in late January after sheriff's deputies and Ashtabula city police got a tip.

The criminal trial began Monday in Common Pleas Court Alfred Mackey's courtroom. A parade of witnesses testifying has included a few burglary victims; an Ashtabula man, who bought guns stolen by the ring; and sheriff's department investigators James Kemmerle and Detective Brian Rose.

Assistant county prosecutor Harold Specht and Bruce Bennett represent the state's case. Dioneff's defense counsel is court-appointed attorney Hobart Shiflett.

Rose told the jury of fingerprints found on the recovered guns stolen from one victim's home in early January. The prints reportedly matched the defendant's.

Rose was among the officers on Jan. 25 arresting Dioneff and Cunha, who lived together at the Middle Road address. Others arrested were Michael Mannis of Ashtabula, who is Cunha's foster brother; James Kilpatrick, 23, of 1912 Lambros Lane, Ashtabula; and Steve Zepeda, 25, of 5014 Main Ave., Ashtabula.

Cunha was granted immunity by the prosecutor's office in exchange for her testimony.

Under direct questioning by Bennett, Cunha targeted Dioneff as the ringleader of the burglary gang. Three defendants connected to the ring have already pleaded guilty to felony charges.

Cunha went through a descriptive litany of driving Dioneff and his cohorts to each of the burglarized sites going back to December. Guns and jewelry taken were usually sold by the group, she said.

Asked by Bennett how the burglaries began, Cunha said, "Matt was too lazy to work and he has a cocaine habit."

As Dioneff's girlfriend for five years, Cunha said she was at first willing to be an accomplice. She also said Dioneff was "very controlling" when using cocaine.

"It was Matt's way or no way," Cunha said referring to his plotting where and when to commit the alleged burglaries.

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