Editor’s note: The above video was from the investigation of the murders in 2020.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Kevin Cartwright was a gigantic Chicago Cubs fan.
Kevin, who was one of two people killed in an April 23, 2020, double homicide on the East Side, picked up the allegiance from his grandfather, who was from Gary, Ind., and worked for Bethlehem Steel before retiring.
His mother, Val Cartwright Chorba, said her son’s two favorite keepsakes were his Cubs jersey and a Cubs hat. She would like to have them.
Except they are missing and no one knows where they are at.
Kevin was 32 when he was killed as was the other victim, Joseph Digiacomo. They were found shot to death at about 2 p.m. on Nelson Avenue on the far East Side. The case is unsolved.
Speaking by phone from her home in Alabama, where she works for a trucking company, Val said that a part of her still expects to hear from Kevin.
“You never stop waiting for them to come back,” she said through tears.
She acknowledged her son had battled a drug addiction before his death, but she added he never committed a crime of violence and he would go through stints of sobriety when he would lead others to quit using.
“He never hurt another soul in his life,” Val said.
But former users who stay in touch with the people they used to use with often fall back into the rabbit hole of addiction, and Kevin was no exception, his mother said.
“When one of them would fall off the wagon, they all would,” Val said.
Val added that at Kevin’s funeral, she was approached by several people who told her Kevin made a difference in their lives and convinced them to stop using drugs. She said she tried to get him to leave Youngstown and that environment, but she was not successful.
Val lived in Poland for 11 years while Kevin attended Poland High School, although Kevin had to get his GED through a court program because he had been jailed on drug charges as a juvenile.
Her son not only lived and died with the Cubs, but also lived to fish with his grandfather, Craig Cartwright. The grandfather passed on his love of the Cubs to his grandson, as well as his love of fishing. The two were very close, Val said.
Kevin was probably one of the few people in Northeast Ohio who were excited when his Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 World Series against the then-Cleveland Indians, to capture their first championship since 1908.
“He was to the moon,” she said.
She last saw her son the Christmas before his death, and she said the visit went well.
“He was doing really well at the time,” Val said. “When he was clean, he was fabulous.”
Kevin was also a cigar aficionado and she gave him a humidor as a Christmas gift.
She said she had no idea what was happening in his life when he and Digiacomo were discovered by a passing motorist.
A driver called 911 and told police that they saw a body in the road. Police found a man dead with gunshot wounds on the road. They searched more and found the second man also shot to death about 15 yards into the woods.
At the time, police said it appeared more than one person was involved in both murders.
The lead investigator on the case, Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert, said the case is not unsolvable, but he does need help.
“It’s at the goal line,” he said.
Hampering his investigation is the fact that the murders took place in a remote area where there are no houses or video.
Some ballistic evidence was collected at the scene, and Lambert said investigators do have a motive because there was a third victim who was not killed. Lambert said the suspects tried to get at that victim the day before the murders, but that person managed to escape.
The deaths of Kevin and Digiacomo were part of an escalating wave of violence that gripped the city in 2020, when the number of murders shot up from 19 the year before to 28 and the number of shootings went up from 58 to 98. Although several cities across the county experienced a surge of violence at the time because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Youngstown was already experiencing an increase in violence before shutdown measures went into effect in March of that year.
Kevin’s death has changed Val and the people around her immeasurably.
“It changes everybody’s personality and how they look at the world,” Val said. “I feel like at this point, because he wasn’t perfect, because he wasn’t a shining example, that he has been forgotten.”
Val said her other two children and grandchildren, including a daughter of Kevin’s, keep her going.
Her middle son stays with her because he feels like he has an obligation to take care of his mother, Val said.
She said she understands that an arrest in her son’s murder won’t bring him back. But it could help deal with the frustration that the person or persons who are responsible are running around without a care in the world.
“They’re walking around and he’s not,” Val 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 murders of Kevin Cartwright and Joseph Digiacomo or the cases below can call the Youngstown Police Department Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911, or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE. If a friend or relative of anyone on the list would like to speak to a reporter they can email contact information to email@example.com.
UNSOLVED HOMICIDES FROM 2020:
Jan. 26: Nicholas Burnett, 35, of Boardman, found shot to death inside a car in the 700 block of Parkview Avenue.
March 5: Anthony Anderson, 35, is gunned down in a West Indianola Avenue barbershop.
April 23: Kevin Cartwright, 32 and Joseph DiGacomo, also 32, are found shot to death about 1:45 p.m. by a passing motorist on Nelson Avenue. One body is in the road and a second body is about 15 feet away in the woods.
May 12: Urrayne Bulls, 24, of Warren, is found shot to death in an abandoned SUV on Interstate 680 South near the Indianola Avenue exit about 11 a.m.
June 15: Kiondre Davis, 27, dies in a double shooting at a 319 E. Florida Ave. home. The second victim survives.
June 21: A car with the body of Shon Rankin, 41, is found about 3 a.m. on Interstate 680 South on the Market Street exit ramp. He had been shot to death.
July 18: Brandon Wesley, 18, dies at St. Elizabeth Health Center after being shot about 9:45 p.m. on his way home from playing basketball in Homestead Park. Police believe he was caught in the crossfire of two groups exchanging gunfire.
July 31: JaWuan Hurst, 20, is shot and killed inside a 54 LaBelle Ave. home.
Sept. 5: Thomas Huff, 49, is found shot to death at a home in the 300 block of Euclid Avenue.
Sept. 15: Theaplus Redmond, 19, is shot and killed during what looks like a home invasion at a home in the 2000 block of Salt Springs Road.
Oct. 9: A man is found shot and killed in a vacant lot in the first block of East Evergreen Avenue.
Oct. 16: JuWuann Howell, 22, is found shot about 4 p.m. at a house in the 400 block of West Evergreen Avenue. He later dies at St. Elizabeth Health Center.
Dec. 10: Demetrius Washington, 37, is found shot and killed about 11:40 a.m. at Chicago and Rosedale avenues. Police say he was shot several times and there are multiple casings around his body.