Jeanne Dereich said the memory of her son Mark is never far from her mind. Mark was murdered Dec. 6, 1982, in a home on the North Side of Youngstown. He was 21. The case remains unsolved.
The memories are especially acute when she attends Mass at St. Nicholas Church in Struthers and sees the children there.
”Every time I go to church, I look and when I see the children, I think of him as a little boy,” Dereich said. ”I believe he is in heaven right now.”
”I just pray every day for his soul,” Dereich said.
Her son’s case is one of five local cases that have been submitted to the state attorney general office’s unsolved homicide database.
Another case is that of Eileen Zarlenga of Girard, who was found murdered Jan. 30, 1988, in a field in North Jackson.
Her sister, Rochelle Coandle, said the lack of progress in the case is frustrating.
”Nothing’s really going on,” Coandle said.
Coandle said she was close with her sister and is hoping the case can be solved. She said her sister had a daughter but she has not spoken to her niece in several years.
”It’s been so long, I want it to get solved,” Coandle said. ”It’s a long time.
”It’s really hard on a person. It’s hard on me. It’s so hard that she’s gone. I can’t believe that she’s gone.”
Coandle said her sister was a majorette at Girard High School and was manager of a store at the Southern Park Mall before she was killed.
Coandle was the big sister and their mother died when Zarlenga was just 14. She said Zarlenga had a lot of questions about their mother.
”She used to say, ‘I wish I knew mommy like you did,”’ Coandle said.
Dereich said her son was a mechanical engineering major at Youngstown State University when he was killed and that he was living off campus at the time of his death.
She said her son was a national merit scholar and liked to collect bottles and he fixed his own cars. He played guitar, liked kittens and was thinking of going to law school.
”Mostly he worked and went to school,” Dereich said. ”He was pretty busy.”
Retired Youngstown Detective Michael Walsh worked the Dereich case. Walsh said he was working a side job at the former Arcade night club on Fifth Avenue, where a McDonald’s restaurant is now, when the call came in, and he was assigned the case because he was the detective on call.
Walsh said Dereich had a stamp for the Arcade on his hand when he was found and it looked like he was killed in a struggle. Walsh said Dereich was shot under the chin with a small caliber handgun and there was a lot of blood.
Walsh said there were no signs someone forced their way inside.
”It was somebody he probably let in,” Walsh said.
Investigators also found signs that drugs were being sold out of the apartment, and they found white powder, some pills and empty 50-pound plastic bags, Walsh said. Because there were drugs being sold, Walsh said that made it a hard case to investigate because of the high traffic in and out of the house.
He said there was a rumor that a pair of brothers who know Dereich had suddenly come into a large amount of money after Dereich was killed, but that lead did not check out, Walsh said.
”Everybody he sold drugs to is a probable suspect,” Walsh said. ”We really didn’t have a bonafide suspect.
Walsh said he was working homicide for just two years before he was transferred to the department’s Auto Theft bureau, but he said in the 80s the city averaged about 10 to 15 homicides a year, which gave more detectives more time to work a case.
One of his predecessors is Detective Sgt. Rick Spotleson, who is investigating the May 2008 shooting death of John Cotton, who was shot and killed inside the McGuffey Road garage he owned on Youngstown’s East Side. Spotleson said Cotton was dead for at least 10 hours before he was found. They believe he was robbed but they have no other information, Spotleson said.
”It’s a real who done it,” Spotleson said. He said there is almost no physical evidence, and no witnesses.
”No one even heard the gunshots,” Spotleson said.
Spotleson said he put the case on the state attorney general’s unsolved homicide data base in the hope that someone can leave a tip.
”This case has always bothered me,” Spotleson said.
Jeanne Dereich said she figures her son was killed in a robbery but she added she thinks of him every day. She said she would not say much to the person who killed her son if she could speak to the them.
”I would say, ‘God have mercy on your soul,” Dereich said. ”I miss my son every day. Every day I think about him.”