YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — For LeArtis Day, busy is a good thing.
The 46-year-old East High graduate works as a substance abuse counselor and is going back to school at Youngstown State University to get a master’s degree in social work.
If he’s not at work, you can find him in the computer lab at the Veterans Center on Wick Avenue across the street from campus.
It’s been like that ever since his daughter, Kylearia Day, 19, was shot and killed late Jan. 5 in a car she was riding in on Interstate 680 northbound.
The driver of the car, Marquis Whitted, 19, was also killed. Police do not believe Kylearia was a target.
For LeArtis, work and school are like therapy.
“It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it,” LeArtis says recently on an unseasonably warm October day in the computer lab. It is early in the morning, and while the parking lot is full, the building, or at least the ground floor, appears to be empty.
Nevertheless, LeArtis talks quietly amid the rows of empty desks and computers, like he’s in the library, as he discusses his daughter and how he has tried to move on since she died.
This is not the first time he’s had to bury a child. Kylearia had a brother who died at 17 from a heart condition. He has five other children.
His daughter was a graduate of the Youngstown Rayen School Early College program and Youngstown State University with an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and Management. She was going to school but LeArtis said she was unsure what she wanted to do in her future.
He told her that was OK. He just wanted her to keep learning.
“I told her to keep going with her education until she could figure it out,” he said.
One thing Kylearia was interested in was photography and combining her pictures with writing, LeArtis said. She loved music and ran track for Chaney, her home school.
“She was the type to just go to school and do her work,” LeArtis said.
LeArtis already has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from YSU and is on track to get his master’s in 2025. He served in the U.S. Army from 1996-2000, just a year after graduating high school, as a cargo specialist.
Kylearia’s mother, Kim Hughey, and a sister both reached out on Facebook Messenger to say how her death has shattered them. They said the car Marquis was driving was actually Kylearia’s, a gift from her mother and they said she loved the car.
Representatives of Marquis’ family could not be reached.
Beginning last year, Chief of Detectives Capt. Jason Simon allowed a reporter to accompany detectives on a homicide investigation, to see how detectives do their jobs from the time they are called out until the case is cold or an arrest is made.
This is the second time a reporter has been able to follow detectives. Last year, a reporter accompanied a different set of detectives who were called out after human remains were found on the East Side. The remains ended up belonging to a woman who had been missing since 2017.
In Kylearia and Marquis’ case, lead investigator Detective Sgt. Michael Cox and his partner at the time, Detective Sgt. George Anderson, learned right away that Marquis was killed because of a feud he was having over the internet with the people who killed his brother in April 2022 in a shooting on Mohawk Avenue and that Day just happened to be with him when the shooters found Marquis. Police do have a warrant charging someone with murder in the Mohawk Avenue case, but so far, they have been unable to find him.
But the current case is anything but cold. Cox had the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation in April do an analysis of a bullet hole in the SUV police suspect was used in the killing. They were already examining a car used in the April slaying of a 15-year-old at a birthday party when Cox asked them to also examine the car that was used in the double homicide.
Cox said an analysis determined that the bullet hole in the SUV was caused by someone who was firing a gun from the inside of the SUV.
Cox said he is waiting to examine other evidence that was sent to BCI to be analyzed. He thinks he has a shot at making an arrest.
“I feel confident we’ll be able to charge the people responsible,” Cox said. “Hopefully, soon.”
While Cox waits, LeArtis keeps busy. His other children are out of town and being busy keeps him moving.
“My focus is on my degree,” he said.
Anyone with information on the Jan. 5 murders of Marquis Whitted and Kylearia Day on Interstate 680 can call Youngstown Police detectives at 330-742-8911 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE.
This story is part five of a series of stories on the killings on Interstate 680 in January 2023.