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Bellaire couple arraigned for extortion of double murder victim

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A man and woman from Bellaire were arraigned Thursday for an alleged extortion plot that targeted a man who was also a victim in a double murder near Belmont.

Anthony Michael Dibacco, 31, of Guernsey Street in Bellaire pleaded innocent to extortion, a third-degree felony, before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra. Dibacco’s plea agreement hearing was set for Nov. 22 and his trial for Dec. 16.

Miana Maylyn Smith, 25, of the same address, pleaded innocent to the same charge. Her plea agreement hearing was set for Nov. 8 and her trial for Dec. 9.

Each had their bond set at $25,000.

Investigators reportedly discovered the plot while investigating the murder of Thomas Strussion, owner of two local Salsa Joe’s restaurants. Strussion and his wife, Angela, were found dead in their home along Trails End Drive outside of Belmont on Sept. 21 following the report of a structure fire there. Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas has since confirmed the deaths were a double homicide.

Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan did not elaborate on the nature of the alleged blackmail scheme, and he declined to say if it was related to the murders.

“Two people have been charged with extortion and nothing further,” he said. “That investigation came from the initial homicide investigation. We can release no other information at this time.”

The sheriff’s office did not respond to requests for updates on the investigation.

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