‘Hell on wheels’: Strongsville woman convicted in 100-mph crash that left boyfriend, friend dead

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A woman who crashed her car at 100 mph into a building and killed her boyfriend and their friend when she was 17 faces life in prison after she was convicted of causing their deaths.

A judge Monday found Mackenzie Shirilla guilty of multiple counts of murder in the deaths of Dominic Russo, 20, and Davion Flanagan, 19, last July. The conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance at parole until Shirilla, now 19, spends the next 15 years in prison.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy Margaret Russo heard the four-day trial last week without a jury. She will sentence Shirilla on Monday.

“She had a mission, and she executed it with precision,” the judge said. “The decision was death.”

Shirilla sobbed as Russo, the judge, announced her verdict. A sheriff’s deputy placed Shirilla in handcuffs. Her supporters, who also cried during the hearing, shouted that they loved her as she was led out of the courtroom.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley told reporters after the verdict that video of the final seconds before the crash from another business in the park was key to the office’s decision to charge Shirilla with murder and prosecute her as an adult.

“When you drive for four or five seconds with the pedal all the way down until you hit 100 mph into a building, we felt the charge was appropriate,” O’Malley said.

The crash happened about 5:30 a.m. July 31, 2022, at a 250,000-square-foot building in Strongsville’s Progress Drive Business Park. Shirilla turned slowly onto Alameda Drive from Pearl Road and then floored her 2018 Toyota Camry down the three-quarter-mile street until it reached 100 mph, according to surveillance video and data from the car’s computer system.

The steering wheel jerked to the right, then to the left, and the airbags deployed seconds before the car jumped the curb and slammed into the business.

A passerby spotted the crash nearly 45 minutes later and called police, who found Russo and Flanagan dead. Shirilla was trapped in the driver’s seat with one of her fuzzy Prada slippers stuck to the accelerator, and firefighters pried her out.

Russo, the judge, also said that of the final seconds was key to her verdict and showed Shirilla acted with purpose.

“She morphs from responsible driver to literal hell on wheels,” she said.

Shirilla, Russo and Flanagan had spent the night at a friend’s house, where they smoked marijuana, friends testified.

Shirilla had THC in her blood above the legal limit under Ohio law, but Strongsville police and Cuyahoga County prosecutors did not charge her with driving under the influence. They, instead, chose to pursue murder charges.

Evidence from her cellphone showed Shirilla drove near the business park a few days before the crash.

Prosecutors seized on statements Shirilla made weeks before the crash, including a video showing her and Russo arguing in which Shirilla threatened to key her boyfriend’s car. As she recovered in the hospital after the crash, doctors noted that Shirilla expressed “grief, guilt and shame” about the accident. Prosecutors painted those statements as evidence that Shirilla had “consciousness of guilt.”

Her attorney, Jim McDonnell, said it was natural for drivers in fatal crashes to feel bad, but it doesn’tmake them murderers.

He also said prosecutors failed to put forth enough evidence to prove that Shirilla crashed on purpose and didn’t just lose control of her car while driving recklessly like many teens.

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