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HOMICIDE Man, 28, is shot to death in car downtown; police seek leads



Published: Wed, August 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Detectives have a few leads on a possible motive, according to a spokesman.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Debbie Olenik wasn't told why she was needed at her 28-year-old son's Thalia Avenue home but knew when she got there that he was dead.

"I knew when I walked in," Olenik said. "I just knew."

Michael S. Olenik Jr. was shot to death inside his 2003 silver Pontiac Sunfire around 10:45 p.m. Monday downtown.

Police found the Sunfire sideways on East Federal Street, facing south in the eastbound lane. The car's front end was smashed, and the airbags had deployed.

Officers discovered five bullet holes near the passenger side door. Olenik was slumped over on the passenger seat, shot in the head and right armpit.

Five 9mm casings were found in a pile of shattered glass at the scene.

A family grieves

"I last saw him on Sunday, we all had dinner at my daughter's house," the victim's mother said, holding back tears at her Youngstown-Poland Road home. "He was going to pick up his two girls to watch a movie."

Olenik's daughters, Catilyn, 10, and Madilyn, 7, stay with their mother.

"He was a great brother," Dawn Hanna, 25, said, crying. The Struthers woman sobbed as she looked through photographs of her brother.

Debbie Olenik, 51, said her son's girlfriend, Darlene Haffner, called late Monday night, not saying on the phone what happened, just to come over. Debbie and her husband, Michael Sr., went to their old house on Thalia and learned the news there.

"I have no idea why it happened. He never let on that he had trouble with anyone," Debbie Olenik said. "The detective said they have a suspect to talk to."

She said her son was heading to a friend's house on the North Side when shot to death. She doesn't believe robbery was a motive.

Possible motive

A witness told police that he heard gunfire and then saw a blue Nissan driving fast from the crime scene toward the East Side on Himrod Avenue.

Lt. Robin Lees, police spokesman, said Detective Sgt. Ron Rodway has a few leads on a possible motive. Lees declined to discuss a motive.

Olenik's mother said he enjoyed his work as a sous-chef at Caff & eacute; Capri in Boardman and had a good life with his daughters and four "teacup" Chihuahuas. His hobby, more like a passion, was installing car stereos.

"I'm still in shock," his mother said. "It hasn't sunk in yet."

She noted that her brother was shot and killed at 28 by a one-time friend. Her son was four months' old at the time.

Olenik's death is the city's 20th homicide of the year, a 54 percent increase over last year at this time, when the city had recorded 13 homicides.

meade@vindy.com




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