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Man sought in connection with the rape and murder of 1-year-old girl


Story courtesy of Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Charges of murder and rape have been filed against a Conneaut man in connection with last weekend’s death of a 1-year-old girl at a Conneaut apartment complex.
Conneaut Law Director Kyle Smith said his office filed the charges and obtained an arrest warrant for Joshua Dale Gurto, 37, for the murder and rape of Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley, which occurred Oct. 7.
Gurto has not been found and is believed to have fled, Smith said in a statement.
Police and ambulance personnel were dispatched to an apartment complex at 530 Clark St., at 5:16 a.m. Oct. 7 for an unresponsive child, police have said.
The baby was taken to UH Conneaut Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The child died from blunt trauma to her head and trunk, according to the Ashtabula County coroner’s office.
Earlier this week police said they had interviewed the child’s 22-year-old mother and the woman’s 37-year-old boyfriend. Gurto is the boyfriend and not the father of the child.
Police are seeking information on Gurto’s whereabouts. Anyone with information is asked to contact Conneaut police (593-7440) or a law enforcement agency. Anonymous tips may be called into the CPD at 593-7423.
“This is a horrible, despicable and devastating crime, affecting everyone who has come into contact with it, including (emergency medical) personnel, Conneaut police officers and University Hospital doctors, nurses and other medical personnel,” Smith said in the statement. “We are very lucky to have these professionals in our community and we are proud of them and very grateful for what they do. They represent the best and the predominant values in this community.”
Smith said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification assisted Conneaut police investigators.
“BCI has placed this case as a priority,” Smith said in the statement. “We are very grateful for their expertise and their efforts. Conneaut police investigators have also made this case a priority, working the last six days without time off, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence. They, too, deserve the respect and admiration of the community for their efforts and tenacity.

“This case is far from over and it continues to be an ongoing investigation,” Smith said. “We continue to work with BCI. Regrettably, we are unable to take questions or provide additional information at this time. We ask for your patience and understanding.”
Gurto has appeared in Conneaut Municipal Court almost 20 times over the years, according to a court spokesperson. Some cases — including sexual imposition, assault, disorderly conduct and criminal damaging — occurred more than 10 years ago. The most recent offense, unauthorized use of property, occurred in 2016, according to the spokesperson.
In 2010, Gurto was bound over to the Ashtabula County grand jury on a domestic violence charge, but the grand jury did not indict, according to court records.
The case is the second murder/rape investigation involving a child in Conneaut in less than four years. In February 2014, 4-year-old Melanie “Lanie” Powell died during a sexual assault committed by Joshua Million, who was 25 years old at the time. The child was the daughter of Million’s girlfriend.
A plea agreement spared Million the death penalty but he is spending the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.


Sereniti’s Obituary

Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Sutley, 1, became an angel, Saturday, October 7, 2017.
She was born September 13, 2016 in Ashtabula, the daughter of Brandon Sutley and Kelsie Blankenship.
Sereniti was a loveable little girl who brought a smile to your face. Her personality was bright and her smile was contagious. She loved Scooby Doo, playing video games with her mom, and sleeping with her favorite monkey her grandma made for her. Although her time here was short, the lasting memories she brought to her family will forever be treasured.
She is survived by her parents, Kelsie and Brandon; God parents, Lisa Murtha and Chico Morales; maternal grandmother, Lisa Butts; maternal grandfather, Hargis (Sonya Taylor) Blankenship; paternal grandma, Melissa Sutley; great-grandparents, Jean (Rick) Carlo, Cheryl Blankenship, Lenette Dello, and Randy Butts; great-great grandmothers, June Brennan, Eileen Blankenship, and Patty Sutley; uncles, Alex Natto, Hunter Blankenship, and Rodney Baldwin; aunt, Rayona Potter; great-aunts, Laura Butts and Amy Lane; great-uncles, James Sutley, Jr., and Cain, Derek, and Brandon Butts; and several other aunts, uncles, and cousin.
Sereniti was preceded in death by her great-great grandfather, Chubs Brennan; great-grandfathers, Eugene Osborne and Harry Runnion, and Jim Sutley, Sr.; great-uncle, Jeff Sutley; and her favorite pet Kloe.
A memorial service will be held Monday, October 16, 2017 at 1PM at the Thompson-Smith-Nesbitt Funeral Home, 345 Main St., Conneaut with Rev. Jan Walsh officiating. Inturnment will follow at Greenlawn Memory Gardens. Calling hours will be held on Monday, from 11 AM until the time of service at 1PM.
The family suggests memorial donations or donation of toys in Sereniti’s name be made to the Conneaut Human Resource Center, Halo Program, 327 Mill St., Conneaut, Ohio 44030, to be donated to local children for Christmas in Sereniti’s name. Donations can be brought to the funeral home or to the Conneaut Human Resource Center.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Thompson-Smith-Nesbitt Funeral Home, 345 Main St., Conneaut.

Online obituary and condolences at



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