By Joe Gorman
email@example.com Second of three-day series
He goes by the street name “Spunk,” and a former detective thinks he is responsible for one of the city’s deadliest shootings of the millennium.
The discovery Jan. 29, 2007, of the killing of four people inside a vacant 548 W. Evergreen Ave. house is technically one of 189 unsolved homicides from 2001 to 2017, a period in which 451 homicides were recorded in Youngstown.
Also unsolved is the Jan. 15, 2004, killings of David Johns, 22; Danyale Oliver, 30; and Nicole Scott, 27, who were found shot to death in a home at 123 New York Ave. that was also the scene of an unsolved double homicide from the 1990s. Detective Sgt. Ron Rodway, lead investigator in that case, is retiring next month but would love to solve the case, which he said went cold quickly.
Former Detective Sgt. Darryl Martin, who is now an investigator for the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, said he thinks he knows who is responsible for the deaths on West Evergreen but he needs help in the form of witnesses.
Rodway said dealing with what is commonly known as the “snitches get stitches” mentality in an investigation can be very frustrating. He said he tries to combat that by telling witnesses that they are not snitching; they are helping the victim and their family by telling police what they know.
“I always try to tell people to get out of that mindset,” Rodway said. “I try to tell them they’re helping somebody.”
Found shot to death at 10:30 p.m. Jan. 29, 2007, inside the vacant home were Anthony M. Crockett, 23; Christopher D. Howard, 24; Marvin E. Boone, 19; and Danielle Parker, 22.
Martin said the killings all stemmed from a murder the previous year, when Martwain Dill, 23, was ambushed in broad daylight as he was traveling south on Glenwood Avenue and killed in a hail of bullets from assault rifles.
Dill had agreed to be a witness in a drug case in Atlanta, and there was some ill feelings about that. Martin said the four were killed in retaliation for Dill’s death. Police believe Anthony Crockett was the target in the killing, and the others just happened to be with him when they were killed, although all of them were involved in the drug game in one way or another.
Three people were convicted of Dill’s death and are serving long prison sentences.
Initially, Martin said he was getting a lot of information about the case.
“I had leads coming out of the woodwork,” Martin said. “They were all dead ends.”
And he needed tips, he said, because there was not a lot of physical evidence, and a canvass of the neighborhood turned up nothing. Martin said that is understandable because the crime happened late at night in the middle of a cold and snowy winter, and there were not a lot of houses around to begin with. The murder house has been torn down, and all that is left now is an empty lot.
What he did know, besides the feud between Dill and the Crocketts, was that the home was used as a drug house. People would come to the home and put their money in a bucket. The bucket would then be raised to the second floor, the money taken out, drugs put in, and the bucket would then be lowered to the ground.
After about two days, Martin said Spunk’s name came up, and he even interviewed Spunk. But that interview went nowhere because Spunk denied everything, Martin said.
In Rodway’s case, he said Johns and Oliver were shot in the basement of the home in a rec room, where a large screen television was blaring when police found their bodies. There were empty beer cans and food around suggesting that the two were hanging out with their killers before they were shot.
Scott was found in the kitchen with an overnight bag as if she getting ready to leave the home.
Rodway said the home was a drug house and was fortified with barricades and a security system. He said both Oliver and Johns were known to deal in drugs. Casings from three weapons were collected at the scene so Rodway said he believes three people carried out the murders and that Oliver knew them. There were no signs of forced entry, and witnesses told police Oliver was picky about who he let in the house.
“It was someone they knew or dealt with in the past,” Rodway said.
Because of the drug angle, police had several suspects and theories, but none of them played out, Rodway said.
“They were pretty bad individuals on the North Side,” Rodway said of the suspects.
He said investigators were not sure if Scott set Johns and Oliver up and was killed afterward or if she was an innocent bystander and killed so there would be no witnesses.
Police also worked the theory that the killings were retaliation for a homicide in 2003 where a 16-year-old was killed in the Westlake Terrace public housing project, but that lead went nowhere. An inmate in jail in Minnesota was heard talking about the case, and tapes were forwarded to Youngstown for detectives, but that proved to be a dead end. The tapes for the security system at the home were missing, and Rodway thinks the killers took them. A video made from the security system was found on a computer in the home, but when that was examined it turned out to be a sex tape, Rodway said.
Unlike Martin’s case, Rodway said his leads dried up quickly. The last entry in the case file is early 2005.
“Shortly after, things dried up,” Rodway said.
The year 2007 was a busy one for Martin. He investigated 11 homicides that year, including the triple homicide of a mother, her son and her unborn child on Center Street, and he also handled two double homicides.
The case gathered national attention. Martin said the media spotlight and pressure did not affect him, mostly because he knew, in his profession, that after awhile something else would come along.
“If there’s pressure on me today, next week there’s pressure on someone else,” Martin said.
Anyone with information on these cases is asked to call 330-742-8911.