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Cold cases cracked in Boardman | Killer of 2 boys ID’d

Boardman Police Chief Todd Werth, left, gestures toward photos of two Boardman boys that police determined were killed in the 1970s by then-Boardman resident Joseph N. Hill, who died in California in 2019. Next to Werth is Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

BOARDMAN — The previously unsolved murders of two young boys from the Boardman area in the early 1970s have been solved, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and township police announced during a news conference on Thursday at the Boardman Township Government Center.

In the case of Bradley Bellino, who was 12 at the time of his death, Boardman officials announced on Jan. 24 that he was murdered after extensive DNA analysis over the course of 50 years. In 2001, Bellino’s clothes were sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s forensic labratory for testing.

A DNA profile was obtained from the evidence left on the victim, and over the years, that DNA profile was advanced for checking against several suspects at the time, all of which came back negative.

The labratory developed several different investigative avenues, including Parabon Labs, according to Boardman police Chief Todd Werth. And with assistance from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department in Leesburg, Ga., the BCI laboratory of Ohio identified a DNA match that enabled the police department to recognize Jospeph Norman Hill Sr. as the person responsible for Bellino’s murder. Hill, who was 32 in 1972, lived at 151 Shadyside Drive in Boardman but moved to California around 1978 and died in 2019 from natural causes.

However, on Thursday, those in attendance learned more about an additional case with similar circumstances to Bellino’s. Three years after the abduction and death of Bellino, 13-year-old David Evans, also of Boardman, was reported missing about a mile away from Bellino’s residence.

Evans was reported missing at midnight Jan. 18, 1975, after his father told police that he was gone for most of the evening before. He was diabetic, missing for longer than six hours, and later found frozen, lying dead on his back in the backyard of a home on Crestline Place in Boardman on Jan. 23.

One day after the body was found, former Mahoning County Deputy Coroner Dr. William Johnson ruled that the investigation “held no element of criminality,” and the immediate cause of death was due to diabetic coma, according to Werth. At the time, several police officers from around the area felt that Evans’ death was a homicide and continued to pursue the investigation.

The autopsy also found that Evans showed fractures to his left radius, ulna and a puncture wound in his lower back that were suffered after he died. The report also mentioned multiple abrasions on his face and upper part of his back, but no blood or seminal fluid were found on his clothing.

After being reassigned the case, Sgt. Michael Hughes and Capt. Albert Kakascik met with current Mahoning County Coroner Dr. David Kennedy, who reviewed the case and determined Evans’ cause of death a homicide due to his broken bones and post-mortem punture wounds.

After several DNA tests conducted by BCI on clothing still in the police department’s possession, a profile contained in Evans’ underwear matched the DNA of Hill Sr. and confirmed his connection to the additional murder.

Werth commended Yost and Ohio BCI forensic scientists Erica Jimenez and Stacy Viola for their continued service and committment to each case.

“A lot of different efforts went into that case, not only the Boardman Police Department, but a lot of different agencies that have supported us in that one,” Yost said.

Yost also praised the families of the victims and the team that worked on the second murder.

“Superheroes don’t always wear capes, sometimes they wear lab coats,” Yost said. “Our role at the Attorney General’s Office is not to be in law enforcement, it’s to provide support, logistics, expertise in forensics and so forth, to help them do their job.”

“Losing a loved one is tremendously difficult, especially when a family has to wait for over 50 years to actually get the answers that they always knew existed,” Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova said

“David was the victim of a homicide at the hands of Joseph Norman Hill Sr. This is the same man who took the life of Bradley Bellino many years ago. Investigating these cases is not easy, and it actually was impossible until certain techniques relating to DNA were developed and refined several yars ago.”

dnewman@tribtoday.com

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