Family mourns pair in murders

YOUNGSTOWN — Police continue to look for suspects, and the family is looking for answers in a double murder.

Grieving family members say the two young men found in a burning rental car near the Mahoning River on Tuesday were “inseparable” first cousins.

Jaron L. Roland, 20, of Fairmont Avenue, and Darry B. Woods-Burt Jr., 19, of the city’s North Side, were found inside the burning car on West Avenue. Both men were bound with duct tape, and each had a bag placed over his head.

Tommiesina Johnson, an aunt to both men, said the family believes the murders were a “setup.”

According to Johnson, Woods-Burt received a phone call before his death and left his North Side home to meet with a friend. A short time later, Roland realized his cousin had been gone longer than expected and drove away in the rental car to find him.

“That was the last we heard from either of them,” said Johnson. “I can’t put into words how my sister feels. Darry was her only son. You just can’t put that into words. My other sister feels the same way. We are just trying to keep them comfortable.”

Court and police records show that Roland had pleaded guilty to improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and was sentenced to three years’ probation in January 2008. Woods-Burt was sought by police in October 2008 in Youngstown for possession of drugs.

Regardless, the family is hoping to see whoever is responsible for their deaths brought to justice.

“We want to make sure the police are up to speed. There are two grieving mothers here with large families, and we don’t want any retaliation. We just want them to catch whoever did this,” said Johnson. “What is going on? Who is responsible for this.”

Johnson said cell phones were missing from both men when their bodies were recovered — phones that still ring when called. She said the family is hoping police are able to track the signals from those phones before they are abandoned.

Johnson also said the men had recently befriended a man who has disappeared since the day of the murders. They are hoping police explore that particular friendship.

According to police, a 42-year-old Canfield man went to the area of the Mahoning River near West Avenue at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday to meet a friend and do some fishing. The man noticed a late-model car near the river but did not initially pay any close attention.

After about 15 minutes of sitting near the lake, the man noticed the car had flames coming from the driver’s side door. The man, reports said, looked inside the car but did not see anything because of the smoke.

Youngstown firefighters responded at 6:52 p.m., and after extinguishing the fire, found the body of one of the cousins. The second man was found inside the car a short time later after police arrived.

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