Twenty years later, mom still seeks answers in murder of son


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Kathy Perla’s pain has not dulled in the 20 years since her son was murdered.

She says what makes it worse is the case is unsolved. As the 20th anniversary of her son Nick Paolone’s murder at his home in the 100 block of East Florida Avenue approaches Tuesday, Perla said her priority is to figure out how her son died.

“I’m dedicating my life to finding out what happened to him,” Perla said. “I can’t rest until I do. I might not even rest then.”

Perla, who now lives out of state, said she is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who can give police information leading to a conviction of whoever killed her son. She said she will pay the reward if there is a conviction.

Her son was 18 when he died. He was found in his home after his wife returned with a pizza, dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

At first, police thought his death was a suicide but a month later, on June 9, 1997, his death was ruled a homicide by the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office.

Perla said her son’s death left behind a 15-month-old grandson who was raised by another family member.

Detective Sgt. John Perdue, one of the investigators who is still in the detective bureau, said complicating things for police was they first thought Paolone’s death was a suicide. By the time the coroner’s office made its ruling, that gave whoever killed Paolone time to get rid of all the evidence.

One thing Perdue said investigators would have liked to find is the .22-caliber handgun Paolone was supposed to have owned. Detectives found no trace of it. Perdue said Paolone was killed with a small-caliber bullet.

One person who was a suspect at the time was Paolone’s wife, who flunked a lie-detector test. Lie-detector tests are not admissible in court, however, and the woman no longer lives in the area. Detectives tried to talk to her months ago in Western Pennsylvania, where she lived at the time, but she told them to talk to her lawyer instead, Perdue said.

Perla said she also thinks her former daughter-in-law was involved as well.

CrimeStoppers had offered a reward in the case before, and Perla also had purchased billboards around town to try to generate interest in the case.

“They [police] don’t really have anything to go on,” Perla said. “There really isn’t anything until someone confesses. I’ve done everything I could possibly come up with.”

Perdue said a confession would help, but with a lack of physical evidence in a case more than 20 years old, investigators would still have a tough time building a case.

Perla said her son had dropped out of high school before his death but he was a hard worker and loved his son. She said she is driven to find out what happened to him because a parent should never have to put their child in a coffin.

“When you’re issued a birth certificate for your child, you never think you’ll be getting back a death certificate,” Perla said.

Anyone with information can call the police department’s detective bureau at 330-742-8911.

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