‘Someone needs to answer:’ Mother of man killed in Youngstown hopes for closure

Cold Case

Xavier Vega's mother is hoping for some closure five years after her son was killed on Youngstown's east side

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBK) — Of her eight children, his mother says Xavier Vega was her “gentle giant.”

“He was so big,” Angel Vega-Barnett said by phone from Columbus, where she now lives. “He was a very funny person. He loved jokes.”

“He was the life of the party. He had to have fun.”

Vega, 27, died after being shot April 17, 2015, at a friend’s home in the 300 block of South Jackson Street on Youngstown’s east side. The case is still unsolved.

Reports said police were called to the home about 5:35 p.m. that day, and when they got there, they found Vega on a sidewalk next to a grill and an SUV with the engine still running. Two men inside the home told police they heard gunshots, went outside and found Vega had been shot. They told police they did not see anybody.

Reports said there were six spent .45-caliber shell casings in the street in front of the house and four spent .45-caliber casings in the yard next to the SUV. There were also seven bullet holes in the house, police said.

Another witness told police they saw a yellow SUV go by the house, turn around, and drive away in the opposite direction.

Inside the house, police found an SKS semiautomatic rifle in the basement that was underneath a towel, which they took for evidence.

Xavier’s mother, who was living in Columbus then as well, heard from relatives that Xavier was shot and killed. The ride to Youngstown was filled with tears, she said.

“I couldn’t see. I was crying so much I couldn’t see,” Vega-Barnette said.

Her husband had to drive the whole way because she couldn’t stop crying. She also said time seemed to stop once she reached Youngstown.

“I couldn’t get there quick enough, but as soon as I got there, everything started moving in slow motion,” Vega-Barnette said.

Her son had a then 11-year-child and had a child on the way when he was killed, Vega-Barnette said. The Campbell Memorial graduate was looking to turn his life around after a six-month prison term when he died, his mother said.

Vega was at a friend’s house when someone on a motorcycle drove by firing several shots at the yard. Vega’s friends shot back and somewhere in all the gunfire, Vega was hit by a bullet and killed.

His mother said he may have been hit in the crossfire.

The lead investigator on the case, Detective Sgt. John Perdue, passed away in 2019.

The five years since her son’s murder have been “horrific,” Vega-Barnette said. She stays away from the news, but when she hears gunshots in her neighborhood, she has flashbacks about her son’s death.

Once, on her way to work, someone was hit and killed by a car. As she drove past the scene, she saw the victim lying in the street and she again relived Xavier’s death.

“I saw the body on the ground and it took me back,” she said.

After five years, a conviction would bring some closure, she said.

“Somebody needs to answer,” she said. That includes not just the man on the bicycle but also the people her son was with, if one of them fired the shot that killed her son.

She said it’s not fair life goes on for all the people involved in her son’s death.

“Everybody got to live their life,” she says. “They’re having babies and buying houses and stuff, but my son does not have that chance.”

Anyone with information on the case can call the Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911.

WKBN first reported on this story in 2015. Watch the video above to see that report from our archives.

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

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