Boardman death ruled homicide; police eye potential suspects
By ROBERT CONNELLY
Township police said they are looking at a few people as potential suspects as a “perplexing” homicide investigation continues.
Chris Craft, 48, is believed to have died about noon Sunday at his residence, 1736 Alverne Drive, and police have not found a weapon.
Craft “was struck on the right side of his face while he was still alive,” said Dr. Joseph Ohr, deputy coroner and forensic pathologist. “It looks like someone [then] went in there to remove injured tissue on the face and neck.”
The most-common reason to disfigure a body “is to hide a crime,” Dr. Ohr said.
Officials are still putting together details of the homicide.
Sgt. Rick Balog said police received a 911 call Sunday afternoon that a man had committed suicide.
Balog said there were “a few persons of interest” and that interviews were continuing. Craft was married, but his wife lives in Tiffin, Ohio, and they have no children. They had been at the house two to three years, but Balog wouldn’t discuss any additional personal details.
Dr. Ohr emphasized his autopsy results are preliminary, and the full autopsy will be finished when toxicology and tissue tests are complete. That report will be done in three weeks, but Dr. Ohr said he could tell Craft drank alcohol, and he found pills in his stomach even though he was not on prescription medication.
He described the wound as less than an inch in depth and about 51/2 inches long. The size of the wound was from the victim’s lips to the front of his right ear, and then the wound extended underneath the jawline and onto the neck.
Dr. Ohr said blunt-force injuries to the right side of Craft’s head and to the front part of his brain contributed to his death.
“The excised or removed portion of skin and tissue goes down onto the neck, so I suspect that there may have been some sort of grabbing at the throat,” he noted, as if the victim possibly had been asphyxiated.
“I found no other injuries, [and] there were no defensive wounds,” Dr. Ohr said, adding he will study the wound to see if he can find other clues.
Police suspect a knife with a straight blade could have been used to hide how Craft died. Dr. Ohr said it was probably just a kitchen knife.
He also said the reason there was no blood splatter at the scene is because the removal of skin was done after the death. He said there was about a 12-inch wide puddle around Craft’s head and the equivalent of two large coffee mugs full of blood in that puddle.
The home has been released to the family after Boardman police processed the crime scene with the help of state agents. Removed from the home was a computer Craft’s body had been found in front of, on the floor by a chair.
The 911 tape has not been released, and the search warrant for the residence Monday also is unavailable to reporters.
This is the township’s first homicide since October 2012 when Michael A. Spera, 38, of Youngstown was shot and killed after breaking into the home of Kevin Neal at 5011 Lockwood Blvd. Neal claimed self-defense in the home invasion.