Twelve years after Ohio State University student Charles Ballard was slain inside a home along East 17th Avenue, police still don't know who committed the crime.
In the pre-dawn darkness of Feb. 8, 2000, someone executed the fourth-year engineering student from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Columbus police Detective Dana Farbacher called it a "Hollywood hit."
The building, located at 328 E. 17th Ave., has since been renovated. Back then, it was dilapidated, but the rent was right for a college student with little money. Ballard was the only tenant. That night, Ballard, known as "Chico," watched TV with a friend.
"Chico was in his apartment here on the right," Farbacher said, and pointed to a window.
After Ballard's friend left, the lights went out. The building was in such bad shape that Ballard may not have been surprised. He grabbed a candle and headed for the basement to check out the electrical breaker box.
Farbacher pointed to the rear door, now complete with lock and deadbolt. Back then, there were no locks, he said.
"The killer was waiting for (Ballard) down in the basement when he came in to check on the lighting," Farbacher said.
His killer shot Ballard several times and then set fire to the lower half of his body. Ballard died just weeks before his 23rd birthday. The next day, after calls to his cell phone went unanswered, one of his friends called police.
Farbacher, who works with the Columbus cold case unit, thought he had a suspect, who worked as an employee of a nearby BP gas station. The two had argued a couple times. The employee admitted to arguments but denied killing Ballard.
There were no witnesses. There was little evidence. There were no arrests.
More than a decade later, much has changed. The man who police originally suspected moved out of the state. The house has been renovated. New tenants live inside. But there is no justice for Ballad, now one of 600 unsolved cases that detectives long to close. They welcome any tips.
"It can be really frustrating sometimes," Farbacher said. "But when you look at the case packets, and you look at the victims and you think about the fact that there's still somebody out there that caused their death, you know, let's keep chipping away at this."
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