THE WAGES OF SIN
Jan 12. 10:54 a.m.
The spot on McCartney Road where as a young patrolman Youngstown police Detective Sgt. Michael Cox chased a man in a car and on foot has not changed much as Cox and his partner drive in a cold, steady rain toward the Pennsylvania border. It is almost exactly a week after the deaths of Marquis Whitted and his girlfriend, Kylearia Day, both 19, who were killed when someone shot up a car Whitted was driving on Interstate 680 North.
Cox, the lead investigator on the case, and his partner, Detective Sgt. George Anderson, have in the days since they were at the crime scene Jan. 5, done a lot of work on the case. They have listened to recordings of jail calls from inmates at the Mahoning County Jail to see if they can pick up any scuttlebutt on the killings, but they were not able to learn anything there.
After finding video of Whitted’s car on the day after the killing and an SUV they think was involved in the killing heading toward the freeway, the detectives look for more video evidence in the meantime. They know where the two were before they were killed but have no idea where they heading when they were shot.
One thing they did learn, however, is that the SUV they believe was following Whitted is a Volkswagen Tiguan, and they have found that a Tiguan that was rented by a car rental agency in Sharon, Pa., had been reported stolen and spotted in the city.
In fact, the SUV had been involved in a chase the day before with officers from the Neighborhood Response Unit but they terminated the chase because of traffic conditions at the time. The SUV got away.
The detectives may not know where the SUV is yet, but they have a lead from the vehicle; the name of the woman who rented it in Sharon. She lives in New Castle. So both detectives decide to make a road trip across the border to see if they can find the SUV or speak with her.
They’ll have a guest accompanying them also. As part of a series of stories on homicide investigations, Chief of Detectives Capt. Jason Simon agreed to allow a reporter from WKBN to accompany detectives on a case from the time investigators are called out until the case is either solved or goes cold. The first drops of rain begin falling as the car Cox is driving pulls away from the station on Boardman Street toward the East Side and, ultimately, the Keystone State.
The plan as the two drive east on a rain-splattered McCartney Road is to hope they see the Tiguan at the New Castle address, but if it is not there, they will talk to whoever they can find. Before heading there, Cox calls a friend in the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office to touch base and get some contacts in case he needs law enforcement assistance while there.
He certainly needed assistance for the chase he is recounting. It was when he was a member of the Poland Village Police Department and they chased a man through Struthers, then Campbell until his car went off the road at McCartney and Struthers-Liberty roads in the dead of night and Cox and others had to look for him. He somehow found the man in the pitch-black darkness and managed to take him into custody.
The two are heading to the North Hill area of New Castle, which Cox describes as their version of Yougstown’s Fifth Avenue. He knows the lay of the land very well; his wife is a native of New Castle.
The rain intensifies as they cross the state border and slows down a bit as they enter the neighborhood, filled with old, brick-style houses that all have nice lawns. A few still have Christmas decorations up.
“These are nice houses,” Anderson observes.
“It’s a very well-kept neighborhood,” Cox answers.
“This is like the North Side,” Anderson says.
They find the address that was listed on the rental application for the SUV, and the SUV is not there. A man, however, is on the front porch, which is odd in itself because the day does not lend itself to porch sitting. The detectives drive by the house, turn around, then park across the street and walk over to talk to him. There are tiki torches on the porch and Cox sits in a chair next to the man while Anderson knocks on the door. No one answers the knocks.
The investigators chat with the man for about 10 minutes before he gets up, walks off the porch and down the drive, making sure to pull up the hood on his sweatshirt to ward off the rain. He gets into the driver’s seat of a car that is parked against traffic and drives away. Cox and Anderson wait a couple of minutes before returning to their car.
They learned that the mother of the person who rented the SUV lives in the home and the man was there to borrow money. Since no one was home, he decided to wait. The fact he’s leaving probably means he would rather not hang around a pair of out-of-town cops to get his money. The detectives find the woman’s Facebook page, and under “about” information, it lists her place of employment. The two decide to visit that place next.
The rain is falling very hard now as the detectives drive to the woman’s place of employment, only to find out when they get there that she no longer works there.
“She hasn’t worked here in three years,” a manager says.
Anderson chuckles. “She hasn’t updated her Facebook,” he says.
The detectives manage to find out where the woman’s mother works and decide to pay her a visit. It is lunch and the woman is in a lunchroom with other employees before being told there are two detectives who want to talk to her. She walks into a hallway and asks, “How did you find me?”
“We’re the police,” Cox says.
As he talks to her, Cox stresses that her daughter is not in trouble but he needs to speak to her about a case he is working on, although he is quick to add that if she happens to decide to leave town, she could be in trouble.
The mother calls her daughter. The daughter tells her she just went to the store and is on her way home. Her mother tells her to go straight home and wait for the detectives. When Cox and Anderson go back to the house, the woman pulls in right behind them.
The detectives get out of the car and speak to the woman inside. They come back about 15 minutes later. The woman tells them that she rented the Tiguan for a friend, and Cox believes her. She does not, however, know any of the suspects in the case.
So Cox and Anderson have some answers, just not the ones they were hoping for.
“You go down this road and sometimes you don’t even know. But right now, this is all we got,” Cox says.
There is one last task for Cox before making the rain-drenched drive back to Youngstown; a stop at Mary’s, a Middle Eastern restaurant on East Long Avenue, for some chicken and rice. Anderson begs off, saying he has a lunch waiting for him back at the Detective Bureau.
Cox gets his lunch and a Coke, and the pair head back to Ohio. Just before they get back on U.S. 422, a handwritten note on a piece of soggy paper taped to a utility pole announces in big, black letters, “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH. JESUS LOVES YOU.”
The detectives pass the sign and continue on through the rain. In this case, they are hoping the wages of sin can be a prison sentence. They just don’t know yet who will be responsible for payment.
This story is part three of a series of stories on the killings on Interstate 680 in January 2023.