YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — When Malcolm Myers first went missing in April, family and friends were not too concerned.
They expected it to turn out to be a “Malcolm Story,” one of several tall tales for which he was known among family and friends because of their wit.
But as time grew, it was apparent that there might not be a story. Malcolm remained missing until July, when his body was found at a vacant East Side home in a trash can.
His family, led by his mother, Stephanie Myers, now wants to tell another story, but this time in court, by finding the people responsible for the 31-year-old’s disappearance and murder.
Stephanie has been placing fliers across the South Side asking for information about her son’s death. There is a $5,000 reward.
Recently, she and several family members and friends gathered in the living room of her South Side home among pictures and mementos memorializing Malcolm.
“I don’t know if this will make me feel any better, but I want to know who did this,” Stephanie said. “I want them to pay. I wouldn’t wish this on any other mother.”
“This is a club I don’t want to be a part of.”
Youngstown Police Detective Sgt. Robert Gentile also wants to make someone pay. He is the lead investigator on the case.
Gentile said there are suspects, but he could not divulge much of what police know because he does not want to tip off the people responsible for Malcolm’s death.
Malcolm went missing April 10 from his mother’s South Side home. He was found July 23 at a vacant house in the 500 block of Loveless Avenue on the East Side. Gentile said Myers was killed the day he went missing, and he died from a gunshot wound.
Gentile said there has to be some type of a connection between the suspects and the neighborhood Myers was found in.
“It’s hard for me to believe they just picked a house at random,” Gentile said. “From my experience, people will dump a body or do stuff in places they’re familiar with, so there has to be some type of connection to the neighborhood.”
One thing that the Myers family is familiar with is grief, along with searching. They looked long and hard for Malcolm, and they said they still, out of reflex, train their eyes on wooded areas or vacant houses when driving, a routine they picked up when searching for Malcolm.
“It’s like a habit now because we did it every day,” said Malcolm’s brother, Louis Jones.
Jones found Malcolm’s car in the garage of a vacant house on Cleveland Street a few days after he went missing. Louis said he decided to search the South Side, and he started from the bottom, on High Street, and worked his way up.
He spotted the car in a garage and went to look. The door opened and so did the trunk but not much appeared out of the ordinary.
“I was worried when I saw the car,” Louis said.
Other family members and friends went into vacant homes to look for Malcolm, but none of those searches turned up anything.
Malcolm went missing just days after the funeral services for Stephanie’s father in California. They had a memorial service for Stephanie’s father April 9 in Youngstown.
He drove to Detroit April 10 with one of his best friends, Qyshon Jackson, and returned to Youngstown by 5 p.m. Sometime between the time he got back and 8 p.m., he spoke to Stephanie for the last time.
“He told me, ‘I’ll be back, mom, I love you,'” and then he left. He did not say where he was going.
When he didn’t come back, Stephanie thought he might have stayed the night with his girlfriend, Marjorie Starkey, even though he didn’t return Stephanie’s calls.
Qyshon was also not getting a response to her texts and calls to Malcolm, but she said that was not unusual.
“Malcolm is like that; his phone’s always dead,” Qyshon said. “He’s not good with phones.”
However, family members began to get worried as one day stretched to two, and that worrying increased when Malcolm did not acknowledge a relative’s birthday. Stephanie said she was trying to call to remind him of the birthday, but she got no answer.
“My heart dropped,” Stephanie said.
Compounding her concern was no one else in the family had heard from Malcolm either.
“If he didn’t talk to me, he would talk to Louis or one of my nephews,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie called police on April 13 to make a missing person’s report.
That also kicked off a time of torture and anguish for the family. As each day passed with no sign of Malcolm, the anxiety increased. It was hard to eat, sleep or work. They were living on the edge of uncertainty, waiting for something, anything, to happen that could point to Malcolm’s fate.
“I feel like we were mentally tormented and tortured,” Marjorie said.
“It does something to you,” Louis added. “It was like a never-ending nightmare.”
Louis said his imagination would run wild during this time, worrying that his brother may have been held somewhere against his will and wondering if he would be able to escape.
Malcolm was supposed to be the best man at Louis’ Aug. 13 wedding at Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church. He liked the Lakers and the Jacksonville Jaguars and enjoyed rap music. The Woodrow Wilson graduate got good grades in school and was once placed in a gifted program, but Malcolm did not mesh in that setting so he returned to regular schooling, where he still got good grades. He also attended Youngstown State University for a time and he worked in several local factories.
As the family waited for answers, they continued searching the South Side streets they said Malcolm knew so well, knowledge he acquired by riding his bike on those same streets and through those same neighborhoods as a kid.
They were still holding out hope that they could hear one of Malcolm’s famous stories.
“Everybody was praying he would come back and have a tale to tell us,” Stephanie said. “We would kick his butt, but we would listen and laugh.”
It was bad enough he was killed, but the mental anguish and heartache the family endured for months waiting to find out what happened to Malcolm made it even worse.
“It made it worse mentally that we didn’t know where he was,” Qyshon said.
Malcolm was found on his sister Tiffany’s birthday. He was positively identified on the birthday of his father, Felix Black, who was also among those gathered in Stephanie’s home, but he did not want to talk for this story.
“It’s like all these days, we’ll be celebrating, but we’ll be mourning, too, for the rest of our lives,” Stephanie said.
What also rankled was media reports that Malcolm was the man found in a trash can.
“He’s not just some man who was found in a trash can,” Qyshon said.
“It kills me that they put my baby in a trash can,” Stephanie added.
Malcolm did not have kids of his own, but he was very close to Marjorie’s daughter, Ma’khiah Ballinger, 4, and treated her like she was his own daughter. Asked what she missed most about Malcolm, Ma’khiah said, “hugs.”
Stephanie also said she misses Malcolm’s hugs.
“He was my hugger,” she said.
Anyone with information on the case can call Gentile at 330-742-8236 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE. A cash reward is available for information leading to an arrest and conviction and callers can remain anonymous.
Gentile also asks that if anyone’s city-issued garbage can went missing around April 10, especially on the South Side, to contact him.
This story is part of a series of cold cases that WKBN is examining.