Editor’s note: The above video is from WKBN’s initial report on the murder in 1998.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — They were childhood friends and grew up on the same street on the North Side.
Terrence Thomas, 47, lives in Solon, got a degree in computer science from Youngtown State University and works with computers.
Chester Clardy Jr. never made it out of Youngstown. He also never made it past 22.
Chester was murdered Jan. 30, 1998. His case was never solved.
Chester’s death prodded Terrence to get his degree so he could get out of Youngstown. At the time, the city was in the tail end of a bloodletting that saw 492 people murdered during the decade, an average of 49.2 per year. It was the most violent time in Youngstown’s history.
Chester’s death was one of 47 homicides in Youngstown in 1998.
Hearing of Chester’s death, Terrence said, “It was really bad, man, but at the same time, it motivated me to stay in school and get out of Youngstown.”
“The 90s was a crazy time with drugs and shootings. It was just a mess,” Terrence said. “You became a statistic.”
Chester and Terrence grew up as neighbors on Crandall Avenue on the North Side.
“We were friends since the Big Wheel days,” Terrence said.
They went to separate high schools — Terrence went to Ursuline, where he played football for head coach Dick Angle while Chester went to The Rayen School — but they still kept in touch.
They both went to YSU. Chester had an apartment off campus on Bryson Street. That’s where he was found shot to death about 11:30 p.m. Jan. 30, 1998.
When he found out his friend had been murdered, Terrence said he could not believe it.
“I don’t know exactly why someone would kill CJ,” he said.
In a report for WKBN, reporter Joe Bell said Chester’s friends told him he was at a house on Alameda Avenue watching television with friends a few hours before he was killed. He then went back to his apartment on Bryson Street, where he was found at the foot of the steps dead from two gunshot wounds.
Friends and family told Bell that Clardy was an easygoing guy who had no enemies, but nevertheless, at the time, police said his death was not a random act.
Chester was studying telecommunications at YSU when he was killed.
Years later, Terrence got away from Youngstown. He said the long nights he spent hunkered down over a computer in the basement of Meshel Hall were worth it. But he still thinks of his friend quite a bit.
“I’ll always have good memories of CJ. He was an easygoing dude,” Terrence said. “When he died, it had a real impact on my life.”
This story is part of a series of cold cases that WKBN is examining.
Anyone with information on the Jan. 30, 1998, murder of Charles Clardy Jr. can call the Youngstown Police Detective Bureau at 330-742-8911 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE.