Mother waits for justice

WARREN – Victoria West sat quietly in her Warren residence as another year passed, still waiting for her phone to ring with good news.

“It won’t bring my daughter or grandkids back and I know that, but I wish with all my heart that one day they’d call to tell me someone was being held accountable,” a tearful West said.

On June 21, 2006, West’s daughter, Jamelia West, 27, and three grandchildren, Jameire Irvin, 10, Tre’vion Williams, 5, and Jakai Howard, 3, were savagely murdered in their Columbus home.

Friday marked the seventh year West has been left waiting and wondering when justice will come, if ever.

“I go over it in my head all the time,” a grief-stricken Victoria West said during an interview Friday. “How can they let someone get away with murdering those little kids?”

West’s worst fears about the case have been realized as her last call to the Columbus police was a disheartening one. They told her the case was now classified “cold.”

“It should not be a cold case,” West pleaded. “It shouldn’t be sitting in a pile somewhere. That’s my daughter. Those are my grandkids. Where’s their justice?”

However, a recent indictment on a decades-old unsolved triple-murder in Canfield has instilled a semblance of hope.

After 39 years, James A. Ferrara was charged in the 1974 murders of Ben Marsh; wife, Marilyn; and their 4-year-old daughter, Heather.

“It’s crazy they finally charged someone after all that time,” West said.

Ferrara was serving a 20-year sentence for a 1983 double-murder in Worthington when years of work by detectives in the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office paid off in the grand jury indictment last week.

“I know they didn’t have the technology back then, but it makes you think, if that case could have been solved back in 1974, they could have saved those other people that he killed years later. At the same time, I think that it great that they kept looking and investigating all those years later.”

Now, West is hoping to bring attention to the unsolved murders of her daughter and grandchildren in hopes of an equally diligent detective going back and taking another look.

“Where is that one detective?” she asked. “We just need that one detective to go back and put everything together.”

West and her son found the four bodies. Jamelia died from a gunshot wound to the head. Jameire was strangled, while the two boys were smothered, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office said. All four had been covered in blankets when they were found.

West said writings in a journal found after Jamelia West’s death show she was in the process of cutting ties with her ex-boyfriend, then-24-year-old Jason Howard, who has denied any involvement in the killings.

“In her journal that we found after she died, she wrote in that she was through with him,” West said. “She told him that and he threatened her.”

Police initially charged Howard with the killings. The charges later were dropped because prosecutors thought the case wasn’t strong enough to take to trial, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Howard now is serving up to a life sentence for an unrelated murder and other crimes in Warren.

“He would no longer be a menace to anyone,” cold-case detective Dana Farbacher told the Dispatch. “He no longer is a threat.”

But she said she hopes people will come forward with information. Crime Stoppers put up a $10,000 reward for information on the third anniversary of the killings. Howard remains the only suspect in the case.

“It shouldn’t even be a cold case, because we don’t have any doubt about who did it,” West said. “The last time I called (Columbus police), they told me he’s not going to get out anyway, as if that makes it better for me. Where’s our justice in that? Someone needs to be held accountable.”

For now, West said her family is just trying to get by, but every year in late-June, she is reminded of the justice that has alluded her since that fateful night seven years ago.

“I got so tired of calling all the time and hearing the same old thing,” West said of her constant pleas with police to keep investigating. “It’s not like I don’t want to get some attention back on this case. I just don’t know what to do to make that happen.”