Man accused of murder, parole moved

Gina Tenney Memorial Scholarship 2021 recipients are are Mason Ciesielski, Ryan Flemming and Andriy Lasowsky. Photo by Mia Albaugh / The Jambar

By Mia Albaugh

Bennie Adams, 64, who was convicted of the murder of 19-year-old Youngstown State University student Gina Tenney in 1985, had his parole pushed to 2028. 

Tenney was an Edgewood High School graduate and a sophomore at YSU. She lived alone in a second-floor apartment in a converted house on Ohio Avenue in Youngstown.

Adams lived with a girlfriend in the apartment below Tenney, sharing an interior staircase with the YSU student. Adams was convicted on her murder in 2007, 20 years later.

Records state that on Dec. 25, 1985, Tenney first heard an intruder attempting to break into her apartment. She called her ex-boyfriend, Mark Passarello, who stayed with her until about 3 a.m. After he left, she said she could hear the intruder again and called the police.

She was found dead days later floating in the Mahoning River.

The TV show “Your Worst Nightmare” aired an episode covering the murder of Tenney. According to the series’ website, the show is a 60-minute true-crime series blending the reenactments of events with commentary from law enforcement, criminal justice professionals, friends and family of the victims, and occasionally the victims themselves. 

In season 3, episode 1, “A Night Alone,” college sophomore Gina Tenney discovers she has a stalker, then comes face to face with her tormentor and realizes she knows him. The episode aired Dec. 17, 2016.

The murder of Tenney remained unsolved until 2007, more than 20 years later.

Adams was charged with aggravated felony murder, rape with a violent sexual predator specification, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping involving the Tenney case, according to records. Adams is serving a life sentence at Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg.

He was originally sentenced to the death penalty in 2008 for the Tenney murder. However, the ruling was overturned when the Ohio Supreme Court reviewed the case in 2015, sentencing Adams to life in prison with eligibility of parole after 20 years.

Records state that Adams was convicted in 1985 for an unrelated rape of a Boardman girl. He was in prison for 18 years and three months. Almost 3 ½ years after Adams was released on parole for the Boardman rape and related convictions, police officers arrested Adams and charged him with aggravated murder in connection with Tenney’s death in 1985.

The Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office of Paul Gains declined to comment on the parole hearing of Adams.

The Gina Tenney Memorial Scholarship was established in January 1986 by members of the Student Government Association.

According to the YSU page for the scholarship, Tenney was an active member of the student body on campus. She was a member of our Student Government Association, serving as vice president of Student Council and was a student assistant in the Students Serving Students program. In addition, she served as a customer and assistant director during the University Theater’s 1985 season.

The 2021 recipients of the Gina Tenney Memorial Scholarship were Mason Ciesielski, Ryan Flemming and Andriy Lassowsky.