YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Daniel Sims doesn’t finish a lot of sentences, but he doesn’t have to.
It’s the tone of his voice — heavy, slow, quiet — and his gestures, as he talks about the last year of his life and the effort to clean up his house so he can move back in after the city had it red tagged — or declared uninhabitable — this week, that tell you all need to know about what is trying to say and, more importantly, how he feels.
The red tag came on the heels of a fire early Monday morning that destroyed his nephew’s car in the drive of Sims’ 411 W. Marion Ave. home and damaged the side of the house.
The fire comes on the heels of the murder his nephew, Damon Sims, 22, who was shot and killed in front of the house Aug. 22 after he got in an argument with a man who parked in front of the house.
Before that, Sims was the dealing with the death of his mother, who died six months before his nephew was killed, then a brother. Then, in his own words, “about three minutes later, my nephew got killed.”
He did not sugarcoat it when asked how the last year of his life has been.
“Very depressed,” he said as he stood outside on the sidewalk in the freezing rain. “I don’t do death good.”
Sims, 58, has lived in the neighborhood his entire life and said that while the city has done a good job getting rid of a lot of the blight, the drug addicts and prostitutes on the street are a problem. In a word, he said, they don’t respect or understand the concept of personal space.
“It’s been rough,” Sims said.
Still, he said, “it’s progressively getting better,” because of the demolition.
But there is a lot of room for improvement, he said. Gesturing at a vacant lot next to his house with a vacant house next to the lot, he said, “it’s embarrassing to have so much…” and he stopped talking. There was nothing more that needed to be said.
There wasn’t much to be said about his nephew, either, who he said was “more like a son” than a nephew. The case is still unsolved and that, he said, is very frustrating because he believes the police know who did it and he does not understand why they have not made an arrest.
Detective Sgt. Dave Sweeney, the lead investigator on the case, said investigators need a witness to come forward who is willing to testify in court in order for an arrest to be made.
Also frustrating is because of COVID-19 crisis, Sims is not able to go any of the substance abuse recovery meetings he runs or attends. Sims said he was a once a drug addict but has been clean for 18 years.
He said anyone who is addicted can get clean if they acknowledge they have a problem. Getting a sponsor and attending meetings is also very important, he said.
One thing that seems to cheer him up is work. He’s been a plumber in Youngstown for 20 years with his own business, A1 Plumbing, and has an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau, he said.
“Best plumber in Youngstown,” he said with a rare smile, one of the few smiles of our conversation.
Friday, Sims’ house was a swarm of activity. There was an electrician to turn the power back on. A couple of friends who had old cars in a vacant lot across the street were there to move them and others were there to help him clean. Someone had been dumping in his back yard and Sims said he plans to spend the weekend cleaning it up.
The car was set on fire about 2:15 a.m. Monday. Fire reports said the cause is undetermined. Sims said he will be having it towed this weekend. The side of the house next to where the car is parked is heavily damaged, but Sims said he will be repairing that also.
Sims vowed to have the house ready by Monday. He trudged toward the side door in the freezing rain past a memorial for his nephew that was in danger of being obscured by high grass.
“When all the death started happening, I…” then he said something unintelligible. For a man who doesn’t do death well, he is still, despite all that has happened to him, doing life pretty well.