ELYRIA, OH (WOIO) - A double homicide near Midway Mall in Elyria has some residents questioning their safety and wondering whether this is another sign the once-thriving city is starting to crumble.
On Sunday night, the bodies of Michael Lewis and his wife Fannie were found inside a rental SUV near Midway Mall. Both appear to have been shot in the head and left inside the vehicle on Foxhill Lane. Police continue to search for who shot and killed the Elyria couple.
Many people who live near Elyria believe the decline of Midway Mall has led to an increase in crime. Several stores have closed in the last five years.
Mayor Holly Brinda told Cleveland 19 that crime is down in nine out of 10 key areas.
Brinda says homicides in the city are down 75 percent from 2014 to 2015. She added that robberies are down nearly 16 percent and burglary is down 7.4 percent. Rape is down 22.8 percent and aggravated assault is down 4 percent.
Still, Elyria has higher crime than many surrounding cities and towns except for Lorain.
Residents living close to Sunday night's homicide scene are concerned.
Mayor Brinda says Elyria is facing some challenges right now, but it also has its bright spots. She says they have plans in place to bring more jobs and business to the city.
Rose Johnson could see crime tape surrounding a double murder from her apartment off West River Road in Elyria Sunday night.
She says drugs are rampant in her neighborhood and she often fears for her safety.
"It's getting worse and there is a domino effect from people. People are moving out. The apartment complex, there's a lot of empties here. People are leaving, there's no jobs," Johnson said.
Down the street, Midway Mall has seen better times. Macy's is on its way out, adding to the number of empty stores inside. In surrounding shopping centers, restaurants have closed and some store signs are gone.
"This area is dying and it's sad," Johnson said.
But not everyone feels that way. Purvie Smallwood has lived in Elyria his whole life.
"I enjoy Elyria, I work for the city of Elyria. They got a good administration, everyone's trying to make some changes in Elyria," he said.
Brinda says the city is trying to replace lost jobs with new jobs. She says they added 350 jobs over the last few months, mostly through small businesses and manufacturing.
And the city has a new economic development plan, which is actually the first of its kind for the city.
Some residents want to see a focus on Elyria's downtown too.
"Once they build up our downtown, get some people in and putting in stores, different things, venues, things like that. That's going to help us out a lot," Smallwood said.
Mayor Brinda says a $23 million project is currently improving the roads and infrastructure around Midway Mall and they just cleared 140 acres nearby for future development.
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