YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — There is nothing to mark the spot where David Parker was shot and killed in October of 1994 on Youngstown’s east side.
The neighborhood at South Bruce and Shehy streets where Parker lost his life was once a thriving section of the East Side with homes and corner stores which have all but disappeared, victims of the aftermath of Black Monday in 1977 and the mind-numbing violence of the 1990s, when the introduction of crack cocaine onto the streets of Youngstown unleashed a wave of violence that took the lives of almost 500 people during the course of the decade.
Parker, 20, was one of those victims, but even though he was killed over 25 years ago his sister, Perstephanie Parker, still mourns his death.
“Every day, I just wonder what it would be like if he was here today,” Perstephanie said. “He looks just like my son.”
“I just really want to know who killed my brother and why.”
She acknowledged her brother had some run-ins with the law and was selling drugs when he was killed, but she added that doesn’t excuse someone taking his life away.
“He was a good guy,” she said of her brother, who got the nickname “Dirty Dave” from their mother as a small child. “He had a little problem in the past, but other than that, he was a warm person.”
“His specialties were cars and music. He enjoyed doing stuff like that.”
Police and news reports at the time said Parker was standing in front of the store at Shehy and South Bruce Street about 7 p.m. Oct. 18, 1994, when a car stopped and someone called his name. Parker walked over to the car and was shot and killed. He was found on the sidewalk in front of 1343 Shehy St., an address that no longer exists.
Perstephanie heard about the shooting and went to the crime scene. Because her mother was in the hospital, she had to identify his body.
Parker was shot in the chest six times. Police at the time said relatives told detectives Parker owed someone $600 for car repairs, but they do not believe that is why he was killed.
When Parker was killed, he was selling drugs to support the family of four because their mother was unemployed and could not find a job, Perstephanie said. He also had two daughters to support.
“At the time, Youngstown was crazy,” Perstephanie said on the phone from her home in Turtle Creek, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, where she works as a chef. “He was basically putting the food on the table.”
A lot of people were looking for ways to put food on the table in 1994. The unemployment rate in the city then was 14.5%, and 26% for African Americans.
The city was also continuing to bleed population. The 1990 census showed the population at about 95,000, down 10,000 from the 1980 count of 115,000. But in 1994, the population was just over 89,000, well on its way down to the 2000 total of approximately 68,000, the largest population drop for a decade in the city.
But as the population went down, the homicides continued to go up. Parker’s death was the 46th homicide in a year that would see 54 homicides. In 1995, the city recorded 68 homicides, the largest one year total ever. The two years before Parker was killed, the city recorded 52 and 48 homicides, respectively, and Youngstown averaged 49.2 homicides a year for the decade.
The city went into the decade recording 19 homicides in 1990, then jumped to 59 homicides in 1991, the crime rate exploding as the influx of crack cocaine into the city was taking over the drug trade and everyone was fighting for a piece of the crack cocaine pie.
Terrence Russo, who served on the vice squad in the mid-90s and retired from the police department in 2015 after over 30 years on the job, said Parker was killed in the era of “open-air dealing,” when drug dealers were actively selling drugs out in the open on sidewalks and corners before they were pushed inside and dealt from homes, which is the most common method today.
A dealer on the corner had access to a lot of customers but also his enemies because he was out in the open, Russo said.
“You knew where he was going to be on any given day,” Russo said of dealers then.
Perstephanie said her brother had his hands full when he was on the streets.
“Honest to God, given the lifestyle he led, anybody could have killed him,” she said.
Of the 54 murder victims in 1994, at least 34 of them had criminal records, and most of those crimes were drug-related, the late Chief of Detectives Capt. Robert Kane said in “The Vindicator” in January of 1995.
“Most, if not all, have arrests for illegal drugs,” Kane told the newspaper.
Perstephanie said there were two suspects in her brother’s killing, and one has since died of an illness.
She said she does not know the fate of the other suspect.
One thing she does know, even 25 years later, is the heart of her family is gone. Their mother died in 2017 and a sister died of cancer in 2013. Parker’s girls live in Cincinnati with their mother now. She talks to them “occasionally,” she said, but they do not discuss their father much, although she said when they first started talking “they did all the time.”
Of her brother and his role in the family, Perstephanie said: “He kept us all together and kept us on track.”
Anyone with information on Parker’s murder can call the Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911.
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.