JEFFERSON — A video taped confession from the man accused of beating to death his girlfriend was played for the jury Wednesday.
Defendant Leonard Bankston remained unemotional as the hour-long confession played on a big screen set up in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court. Shelia M. Pyles’ mother cried through out the presentation while seated in the back of the courtroom.
Bankston, 54, is charged with two counts of murder, felonious assault and domestic violence in connection with the death of Pyles, who was found severely beaten and unconscious in their West 49th Street home on Dec. 10, 2017. She died the next day at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
In the video tape, Bankston waived his Miranda rights after agreeing to talk to now-retired Ashtabula Police detective, Joseph Cellitti, whom he knew beforehand rather than detective Michael Palinkas, who finished up his testimony Wednesday morning. Palinkas broke the news of Pyles’ death to Bankston shortly before his arraignment on Dec. 11, 2017.
“Oh my God, Oh my God,” Bankston said in a video taped interview with Palinkas. “She died? Oh my God.”
Despite his upset with the news of his girlfriend’s death, Bankston refused to admit to Palinkas that he ever hit Pyles. Then, while walking to the courtroom for his arraignment, Bankston saw Cellitti and said he would “be honest” with Cellitti.
In the video tape with Cellitti, Bankston blamed a combination of “alcohol and jealousy” on the attack.
“I just don’t understand, where was my head at?” Bankston said on the video tape. “I caused it. I caused it. I caused it. I caused it by being jealous. I caused it because I love her more than anything.”
During the taped confession, Bankston said he and Pyles argued on Dec. 8, 2017, about her being in a car with two other men when she was suppose to be with him all night to celebrate her birthday.
“I repeatedly asked her, “Who you in the car with? What two men?” he said. “I grabbed her. I’m mad. We argue and I hit her in the face; I smacked her pretty hard in the face ... We were both drunk and I pushed her and she fell back on the bed. I grabbed her.”
Bankston said he was “buzzed up” when he attacked her in an upstairs bedroom at their home. He told Cellitti he held her down by her neck, sexually molested her and punched her on the side of her face.
“We were drunk and I was slapping her, trying to get her coherent,” he said. “She was tussling with me. I was pushing her by the neck saying, ‘Why would you do that to me?’”
Cellitti said, “You were mad.”
“I was hurt more than mad,” Bankston said. “She said something ignorant so I hit her again.”
Bankston said he then dragged her to the bathroom, placed her in the tub and sprayed the shower on her. Even so, Pyles remained at least semi-unconscious.
“She was still mumbling,” he said.
Bankston said he carried her back to the bedroom, put her in a chair and continued to question her about the two men.
“I hit her again on the chin,” he said. “That’s when I felt my rage lift. ‘What am I doing?’ I thought.”
Bankston said he then profusely apologized to Pyles and tried to make her comfortable on the bed. He then sat and watched her.
“I kissed her face, I’m sorry baby,” he said. “Then I dozed off.”
When Bankston awoke the next morning, he tried to get Pyles to wake up.
“She wouldn’t wake up,” he said in the video tape.
Cellitti said, “She was out because she was hit.”
Cellitti asked Bankston about the blood spatter found in the house. Bankston said she only bled from her mouth. He insisted he didn’t call for help until the next day because he thought she was sleeping. He said it was not unusual for Pyles to sleep an entire day after a night out.
“I thought she would sleep it off and then we would talk about it,” he said. “I wanted her to sleep it off. I sat there with her. She moved her arms so I thought she was OK. I sat up on the bed and just watched her.”
Cellitti said, “You were watching her die.”
“I didn’t know that. I swear to God I was watching for her to wake up,” he said. “I loved her like something never before ... I loved her. I still love her. I never fought to be with a woman as much as her. We have had so many break ups and then we come back together.”
Bankston admitted in the video that he was enraged at the thought of her being with two other men. He didn’t want her to leave and go back to them so he “got up on her,” he said.
“Everything then turned to hell. It was worse than hell,” he said. “She was my everything. I’m not a bad person. I’m God fearing. I never miss a Sunday, never miss a Bible study. It’s the honest-to-God truth. I love her to death.”
Cellitti said, “You didn’t mean to kill her. What looks bad is she was there two-and-a-half days. Why didn’t you call an ambulance?”
Bankston shook his head.
“My life is over,” he said.
After the video, the prosecution rested its case.
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. today in Common Pleas Judge Marianne Sezon’s courtroom.