Editor’s note: The video above is from WKBN’s 2009 report on the crime.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown police Capt. Brad Blackburn is a glass-half-full kind of guy.

He had to be when he was tabbed to investigate the April 4, 2009, death of Kendal Ware, 34, who was found shot to death inside an SUV that was partially submerged in the Mahoning River.

Then a detective sergeant and a homicide detective, Blackburn said by the time a passing motorist discovered the SUV that contained Ware’s body, he had already been dead for several hours, so police were already behind the mythical crime scene clock that starts ticking when a person is killed.

Later, he was able to develop two theories of why Ware might have been killed. But he could not get a witness to cooperate, and the case went cold.

The fact that Ware wasn’t found for several hours after his death gave his killers an advantage because they had time to get rid of the evidence, Blackburn said.

“It complicates things,” said Blackburn, who is now in charge of the department’s Patrol Division. “I wish there was more to go on but the case never really got any traction.”

But when he showed up about 7:30 a.m. that morning, there were some things to go on; they were able to trace the SUV Ware’s body was found in to its owner, and investigators were also able to identify Ware right away because his wallet was with him.

Blackburn said another complication is the lack of a crime scene because Ware was probably killed somewhere else before the SUV was driven into the river on Salt Springs River near Oneta Street. Reports said Ware was found in the back seat.

The driver’s side door of the SUV was open when it was found, and firefighters who were called to search the SUV before it was towed back to shore found Ware’s body inside.

Officers also collected 14 spent 9mm shell casings under a set of railroad tracks near the river but it is not clear how old they were. It was not uncommon for people to shoot guns in the area at the time, reports said.

Ware’s wallet with $94 cash, keys and cellphone were found on his body so investigators did not believe robbery was the motive.

Investigators told reporters for WKBN at the time that they were able to trace Ware’s movements the night before he was killed to a club on Market Street.

Blackburn said Ware belonged to a motorcycle club but the club was loosely organized, which made it hard to find people who knew of Ware’s whereabouts before he was killed.

Investigators also believed that Ware had been dead for several hours before he was found.

“We knew it didn’t happen that day,” Blackburn said.

In cases like Ware’s, Blackburn said it is important not to give into the circumstances of the crime and rush.

But cases like Ware’s also require cooperation from witnesses, Blackburn said, and without that cooperation, it was hard to overcome the head start his killer or killers had.

“There was never really a lot to go on,” he said.

This story is part of a series of cold cases that WKBN is examining.

Do you have a cold case that you’d like us to look into further? Submit a cold case to WKBN.

Anyone with information on the April 4, 2009, shooting death of Kendal Ware or any of the other unsolved homicides listed below can call the Youngstown Police Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE. Anyone who is a friend or relative of a person killed in Youngstown between 2001 and today whose case is unsolved and wishes to speak to a reporter can email Joe Gorman at joseph.gorman@wkbn.com


Jan. 20: Donell J. Rowe, 29, found lying on the ground next to an SUV that crashed into a home on Ivanhoe Avenue. Police think someone Rowe knew was in the SUV with him and shot him.

Feb. 10: Mattie McPeters, 90, is found lying on the floor of a home in the 1100 block of Katherine Street bleeding from several cuts.

March 17: Anthony Bell, 31, and Vandy Bryant, 25, are found shot to death, Bell on the back porch of a home on Brentwood Avenue and Bryant up the street.

March 26: Marvin Chambers, 36, who had been missing for two days, is found shot to death in Nick Johnson Park off Miltonia Avenue.

April 3: Kendal Ware, 34, is found in an SUV that was pushed into the Mahoning River on Salt Springs Road.

April 15: Tommy D. Jones, 32, dies after being shot at Shehy Street market. Another man is wounded in the same shooting.

May 21: Arthur T. Mitchell, 31, dies after being shot on Samuel Street.

May 23: Theresa Harris, 53, dies after being shot on a couch in a home in the 300 block of Falls Avenue. Four other people in the home with her were also shot.

July 8: Sterling Floyd, 36, is found dead in the hallway of a Cromwell Avenue home.

July 9: Terrance Crum is found dead from gunshot wounds on a porch on East Boston Avenue.

Aug. 23: James Cummings, 29, found dead at Tod Lane and Kensington Avenue. Someone had tried to set him on fire.

Sept. 15: Keith Stanford, 39 and David Hammond, 39, are found shot to death in a car on Glenwood Avenue with the car still running, the car in gear and Stanford’s foot on the brake.